Stories We Tell is a minor miracle of documentary film-making

Stories We Tell
4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)


“Why would anyone care about our family?”

In the case of a family other than filmmaker Sarah Polley’s that might well be a valid concern. Polley’s relatives, however, are such an engaging, lively, immensely likeable bunch that it’s a pleasure spending time in their company.

A series of interviews with them about Polley’s late mother forms the basis into not only an investigation of the director’s parents’ marriage and her origins, but also an exploration of the ways in which we talk about our lives.

Cut together with mocked-up Super 8 footage – there seems, at first, to be an embarrassment of home movies – Stories We Tell is intimate and insightful. There are tears and revelations (without ever seeming exploitative), but, most importantly, a sense of purpose.

If the differing viewpoints are often contradictory and if we are denied a complete understanding of Diane Polley as person, her hopes and dreams, well, that’s sort of the point.

Stories We Tell is a reflective and deeply personal narrative that also manages to address our flawed and precious understanding of each other’s lives. Not just touching but often funny, too, Sarah Polley turns what could well have been an exercise in omphaloskepsis into a minor miracle of documentary film-making.

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs ( Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist ( and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape ( Co-host of the Electric Shadows podcast ( and member of the Online Film Critics Society (

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