One of the things that most intrigues me about Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s doc that explores the truth about her biological father, is the way Polley uses found footage to recreate the past. Who among us doesn’t have some kind of film or photos or video of their parents as they were growing up?
Polley structures the film by introducing her many siblings including stepbrothers and stepsisters. Then we learn that her mom had a first marriage, left and never looked back and subsequently hooked up with the father that raised her children including Sarah. This man, Michael is also an actor you might’ve seen in small parts in movies, and Michael Polley also narrates parts of the documentary with text taken from his own journal, all set within a recording studio. But then we also learn that Sarah had a separate biological father. The interaction between Polley and her brothers and sisters is never contentious although there remains some spirited jesting. The clever patter includes Polley exclaiming: “What a handy tool in a situation like this to have an educational DVD on your previously unknown biological father.”
Finally confronting her biological father Polley has the revelation of her life. They agree to take a DNA test, the results of which are revealed in Stories We Tell. Yet Polley has some curve balls in her arsenal. The film literally ends with a third potential father. And somewhere in the minutia of Stories We Tell Polley suggests that the Super-8 footage of her mother and father in their younger days were shot using actors. All in all, Stories We Tell often tells us as much about ourselves as it does Polley’s life.
Stories We Tell opens exclusively this weekend at the River Oaks Three.
- Michael Bergeron