There is an old adage: Write what you know. Those words shouldn’t be a straight-jacket to artistic creation, but Sarah Polley (Mr. Nobody) applied it with fascinating flare to her latest film. Stories is a giant mirror and peephole, reflecting the tale of her family back to her and allowing us to see in. Polley kicks it all off with a wonderful quote from Atwood explaining what you’re about to see, but can’t possibly anticipate, even after being warned. What results is a beautiful bit of art and artifice.
The editing of the movie keeps you off balance, constantly redefining the truth of what you know. This isn’t through subterfuge, but through revelation, approximating what Polley herself must have experienced as information came to her. She attempts to assess no judgement on anyone, but there are whiffs of raised eyebrows and crooked smiles throughout. It is inevitable when the tale is your own to tell… pure objectiveness is impossible. And Polley explicitly plays with our sense of reality, very cleverly building a meta layer around the incidents to help us understand and even wonder about our own lives.
But this isn’t a dirge. It is a celebration and an evening of anecdotes. Certainly there are emotional moments, but the dominating sensibility is one of life and family. The many awards it garnered were well-earned and I can highly recommend this film. It is one that even demands rewatching to fully grasp what is going on.