Remember the fable about the blind men and the elephant, and each asked to describe the beast. One said it was like a rope (having felt only its tail), another-like a large hose (his trunk), the third-a large tree trunk (one of his legs), and the last one-a large soft wall (his side). All "Seeing" the same animal and coming away with totally different experiences. Such is the story line of Stories We Tell, the movie written and directed by Sarah Polley about her family and how they remembered her late mother, Diane Polley.
The film is done as a documentary but is more of a story being told by those involved in it, knowing how it is going to end, but not sure how they got there. And, in telling the story, the players come to understand more about their mother and friend. The 8mm home movies shown throughout the film give everyone a chance to see the story themselves in grainy bits and pieces. And, like all home movies, there are parts here and there missing.
Through interviews and narration by Ms. Polley's family and friends, the story is put together piece by piece as if each person is bringing a missing piece to the table. Some parts, people did not know were missing. And, some parts had been long sought after. But as it all comes together, the puzzle reveals the complex Diane Polley, her life, her loves, and her secrets.
Naturally, everyone was sure that they knew her best. However, each saw only a part of Diane. So it wasn't until Sarah had them all share those parts and tell their stories, that Diane, as a whole emerged. And, as with most things the journey is worth it.
Sarah Polley already has one Academy Award Nomination for Best Writing in an Adapted Screen Play, and her talent shows. Most of her family is in the business. Both parents were actors, with one brother being an actor and another being a casting director and producer. In Stories We Tell, she allows everyone else to tell, what is essentially, her story before the camera. She lets the family dynamics play out with the humor, sadness, and regret we all have.
It was 108 minutes I enjoyed. It may not be for everyone and I doubt it will get a wide release. But it begs to ask, if we all look through the same lens, why do we each see things so differently?