Greetings again from the darkness. As a lover of indie films, I’ve long been an admirer of actress and director Sarah Polley. Her two feature film directorial efforts Away From Her and Take This Waltz displayed not just an eye for the camera, but more importantly, a unique story-telling vision. This time she turns and focuses her story telling skills on her own family, in what is a very intimate pull back of the curtain.
Polley takes a three-tiered documentary approach to the telling of stories associated with her mother (actress Diane Polley). Sarah intertwines interviews with her brothers, sisters and family friends with the voice recording by her father (Michael Polley) of his memoirs, and some staged Super-8 looking video of reenactments of certain events from these corresponding stories. It’s a different approach and works to keep the viewer engaged, even in the slower segments.
Much has been made of the variances within the stories told by the family members. In fact, the stories all seem remarkably similar but it nonetheless is a terrific study in memories and how we come to view our version as the truth. Of course, the obvious answer is that how a memory impacts us does in fact become our truth. Within the first few minutes of the movie, one of Sarah’s siblings says something along the lines of “Why would anyone care about our family?”. At this point, we tend to agree. Even once the real story and secrets are exposed, it’s not difficult to think that these stories could be replayed for numerous families throughout the globe. Sure, the Polley family has the whole showbiz thing, but for family relationships and personal secrets and associated pain, I’m not convinced there is anything extraordinary here … other than the fantastic presentation.
The value here, other than exorcising any personal Polley demons, is with the technical brilliance Sarah shows as a documentarian and story-teller. She spends little time on camera, but we realize this is much more her own story than that of her mother (as it’s set up). Clearly Michael was not fully engaged as a doting father, though that’s hardly unusual. It appears their relationship comes courtesy of Sarah’s commitment to making it happen … before, during and after the big reveal. Polley’s talents as a filmmaker have probably brought her family closer, despite the remaining question of exactly what her motivation was.
watch the trailer: