Metascore
91

Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics What's this?

User Score
7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 37 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Director Sarah Polley looks into her past and excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    May 10, 2013
    100
    Seriously, one of the most jaw-dropping revelations occurs halfway through the final credits. All of which makes the stories Sarah Polley tells in Stories We Tell an enormously intriguing lot.
  2. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    May 30, 2013
    100
    This is the kind of film that benefits from being experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. As one watches it, certain questions may arise. But don’t worry — the answers are fascinating.
  3. 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.
  4. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Mar 7, 2013
    91
    Fans of Polley’s work to date will be delighted by a documentary that serves simultaneously as a gripping mystery, a moving record of a family and a fascinating investigation into the nature of truth, memory, and the documentary form itself.
  5. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    May 9, 2013
    88
    The various witnesses tell contradictory tales that turn this into a real-life “Rashomon." The fact that two of the principals — Sarah and Michael, who delivers touching and eloquent on-camera narration that he wrote himself — are accomplished actors adds another level of confusion and interest that help make this compelling storytelling.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See all 36 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. 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). Expand
  2. 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.
    Expand
  3. 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. Collapse
  4. 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.
    Expand
  5. 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.
    Expand
  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

See all 10 User Reviews

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