User Score
7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 32 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 32
  2. Negative: 3 out of 32

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  1. Jan 8, 2014
    7
    I liked this documentary and what it had to say. The family was easy to like, and while the story does drag considerably by the end, it is effectively wrapped up in a nice way.
  2. Sep 24, 2013
    8
    Sarah Polley’s poignant documentary: ‘Stories We Tell’; explores layers of myths and memories, through a series of intimate interviews, to uncover absolute truths in her very own family of storytellers. Many family members and friends were interviewed to gain different perspectives on the drama within the family; and as incite is gained the mystery surrounding Sarah’s charismatic mother’s extramarital affairs sparks questions about the identity of her true biological father. “Who the f*** cares about our family?” asks one of Sarah’s sisters in the beginning of the documentary. However, if there’s an interesting story at play (even within the context a seemingly ordinary or a blatantly complicated family) isn’t it worth being told. Words can’t express how happy I am this one was told, because it made for an intriguing and ethereal viewing experience. Polley’s meta approach to directing this doc, whereby the making of the film is as crucial a part of the story as the actual stories it's documenting, was quite inventive. Her use of super 8 footage to resemble home videos was very well spliced with the series of aforementioned interviews, thanks to fine editing by Mike Munn. It’s just a finely tuned and an excellently made documentary. Expand
  3. Aug 28, 2013
    8
    It is rather unusual for a director to shoot a documentary which pivots on her private family life, being the one behind the camera to interview others, her side of story mostly remains elusive, actress-turned-director Sarah Polley’s latest acclaimed documentary about the startling discovery of her biological father is a pure revelation and a wondrous crowd-pleaser.

    Starts with family
    members recall her late mother Diane Polley (who passed away from cancer in 1990), an actress, a twice-married woman (with 5 offspring), a freewheeling soul lives everyday to its fullest. The narrative takes a midstream swerve when a secret is slowly to be debunked, after Diane’s death, Sarah and her siblings would find out her liaison with a man who would be Sarah’s biological father when she was in Montreal for a short spell to act in a play. There is a small twist of finding her father, but it is not the keynote of Sarah’s film, like she mentions in the film, what intrigues her the most is the way stories are being told, and how can one get the truth when the only one who is able to reveal what is the absolute truth is long gone? So Sarah glean information and trivia from participants, friends, onlookers and gossipers, the most poignant one is from her father Michael Polley, whose instant response is affecting and genuine, the family bond surmounts bloodline lineage, which is an important criterion elevates human beings as a supreme specie on the earth.

    Interposing the interviews with real-life footages and re-enactment of the past story gives the film a distinctive shade of perusing an old photo book or watching a vintage super-8 video playing out. Every family has its own snags and their complications, what makes the Polleys’ so compelling is save the provocative scandal aside, the film actually anatomizes deeper into the source material and transpires itself to a reflective reminder of how one’s life could only be experienced once and any kind of recount is futile, as long as it involves more than 1 person, there is always a murky territory where certain feelings are unfathomable since only myself knows exactly how I feel and what has happened to me, not even soul-mates would have that power.

    The film is a new entry into my Top 10 films of 2012, and the best documentary feature of 2012 so far, Sarah Polley doubtlessly is courageous and tactful, a firm spearhead on behalf of female counterpart in the male-skewing director sector.
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  4. Aug 25, 2013
    9
    The Human is a strange creature, how a person change the life of everybody with only one action. This beautiful film explains that. It's a excellent documentaries that represents the life of a family in a amazing way. It's a masterpiece.
  5. Aug 25, 2013
    8
    This documentary is a great story about family, love, and the impact of our lives. Sarah Polley does a remarkable job directing this deeply personal story. A-
  6. Jul 5, 2013
    8
    In her last two films (Away From Her and Take This Waltz) Sarah Polley told beautiful stories subtly and with great attention to detail whilst showcasing the talents of two amazing actresses (Christie and Williams). Here she utilises the same skills to present a documentary about the life and death of her mother who died when she was only 11. Family and friends intelligently articulate memories about this complex woman and specifically highlight an affair she had and its subsequent repercussions. The film is by turns engaging, funny, sad and at times almost unbearably moving. At its close one is left with a good feeling about the family and a conviction that whatever the obstacles a positive unity will prevail. Expand
  7. Jun 15, 2013
    6
    Sarah Polley is best known as an actor, but she decided to make this film about her family, specifically her vivacious mother and the affair she had with Polley's father. This film is made up of interviews with every member of her family (and then some), as well as lots of footage from their past. The momentum until she discovers the truth is well-paced and compelling. The last third bogs down in wordy debates about truth and memory (fewer people translates into less energy). There are surprises which upend the entire project, but you'll have to sit thru it to find out. If ur into talky docs, you might find it worthwhile. Expand
  8. jkm
    Jun 2, 2013
    10
    BRILLIANT

    A brilliant film showcasing the true story of "a family" in a very cohesive and thought-provoking way. The depth of the subject matter is perfectly weaved all along, and the filming and editing are impressive all of which make the viewer almost feel as if he is part of the filming process, memories, and story. My favorite film of 2013 thus far (as of June 2, 2013).
  9. May 21, 2013
    8
    “Stories We Tell” is a documentary written and directed by Canadian writer/director Sarah Polley as she tries to trace the history of her deceased mother and the life she lived as remembered by various members of the family. Both humorous and heart warming, this is a quality documentary with surprises that occur on screen as Ms. Polley herself comes to terms with the interesting and complex life her late mother lived.

    I recommend this film for its integrity, its content and, most of all, for the ability of Ms. Polley to detach herself from the personal history she is revealing to give her audience an engaging and involved theatrical work product. I give the film an 8 and urge that it be seen by all who can appreciate that memories, like tastes, are subjective and personal to each of us.
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  10. May 19, 2013
    9
    I don't know Sarah Polley but she strikes me as very bright somewhat shy and vulnerable. These characteristics are reflected in the film. After constructing the film's framework (tell the fully story as you remember it in your own words) she lets the film unfold without heavy handed involvement. She appears very cognizant of the fact that editing would in a way tamper with the raw truth the participants are sharing.

    Stories We Tell is a wonderful film. It caused me to deeply reflect on my life. I remembered, I cried, I laughed and dare I say, I changed after watching it; can't ask much more of a film.

    Its perhaps paradoxical that such a personal film by Poley would elicit such a response. Its all about her family, her mother and father, her experiences. Yet these experiences have such resonance because watching you realize what a common experience we share. Everyone lives a life that leaves us with scattered memories attached to inner feelings that are very hard to organize or even retain. We don't have the luxury of interviewing our lives participants. Poley gets this chance (created the chance) and makes the best of it. She interviews her siblings, her father, their friends. The film demonstrates how our minds sometimes fill in the blanks in an illusory way or push the memory and pain to the background.

    The film is worth more than the combined experience of one hundred Hollywood blockbusters. It has no car chases, no violence, no aging action hero, And it works. Every time I see a film like this I am reminded that with so many bad films produced it doesn't have to be that way. We deserve better. Thank you Sarah.
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Metascore
91

Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Dec 25, 2013
    100
    Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell is two or maybe three dangerous kinds of movies all at the same time, and handled so brilliantly that the result is a transformative, unforgettable work of art.
  2. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jul 18, 2013
    80
    A great storyteller, however, is one who can entertain an audience in the moment -- but who also gives them something to think about, something for them to take home with them when the story ends, which is exactly what Polley does in Stories We Tell.
  3. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    Jul 3, 2013
    40
    In the end, I was nagged by a question posed by Polley’s sister Joanna in the film’s opening minutes. “I guess I have this instinctive reaction: who cares about our ----ing family?” The answer, of course, is Polley herself, who smilingly tells us that a story like hers can never truly be tied down, even as she screws every last piece into place.