Saturday, July 13, 2013

'Stories We Tell' Is One of the Best Documentaries Ever

Uh, not to overstate the case, but "Stories We Tell," playing at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, may well be the best documentary I've ever seen. I can't recall one better offhand. It may well be one of the top five movies on my list.

This is a difficult, sophisticated, layered, mesmerizing, and thoroughly entertaining movie that stretches the definition of "documentary" by providing grainy footage that wasn't available--dramatizing, as it were--but the effect is simply stunning. It is not for children ... of any age. Come as an adult, leave as an adult who knows more.

Sarah Polley, a 30-something Oscar-nominated filmmaker ("Away from Her"), tells a deeply personal--think "voyeur"--family story here, one sprinkled generously with "Oh, shit!" moments and she tells her story without reservation, with occasional humor, with thoughtful interpretation and with a generosity rare in a movie about one's self.

Hers is a story that would be shunted into a closet by most people, and I'm not going to give you any more of a hint than that because I went in cold and enjoyed the movie more because of it. The story centers on Polley's infectiously vibrant mother, a Canadian actor of minor note, and her search for love. It tells of a family's discoveries and how they dealt with them. Everybody gets a shot at telling his side of it and that's where "Stories We Tell" is so very different. It's almost too fair, but ultimately, we are left with an all-sides tale that gives us that fly-on-the-wall perspective, whether or not we want it.

I highly recommend this, but only to people willing to invest emotionally in it. This is not "Superman" or "Little Miss Sunshine." It is the kind of movie that has kept the Grandin Theatre with us all these decades.

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