Polley defines her craft with ‘Stories We Tell’

Sarah Polley (right) filming ‘Stories We Tell’. Image from Macleans.ca.

By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor


In Sarah Polley’s latest endeavor, the Canadian darling challenges herself by switching from fiction to documentary. But the real challenge for Polley lies in the fact that her film, Stories We Tell, is actually a doc that, amongst other things, examines who her biological father is.

Staging the man who raised her, Michael Polley, in front of two cameras, Michael narrates the film with a poetic flow written by Sarah—in the character of Michael. Through a number of interviews with her four half-siblings, family friends, and three of the four men that could be her father, we get a very personal, endearing, if not damaged look into this particular generation of the “Polley” family.

At the heart of the story though, the doc is really about how different people can recount the same story; what bits and pieces meant more to some friends and family, and what didn’t to others. One sibling might recount abuse, while another, growing up in the same household, has their mind on other matters.

While the subject of Sarah’s father is internal to the story, it’s her mother, the long since passed Diane, who truly steals the show. Affairs or no affairs, her siblings, probable fathers, and family friends all remember Diane fondly as a loveable, excitable actress who just wanted to find something resembling true love.

Sweet, beautifully shot, and at times heartbreaking, Stories We Tell is a Canadian doc for the history books, and possibly Sarah’s best film yet.