MovieChat Forums > Stories We TellĀ (2012) Discussion > Just saw this - one BIG issue

Just saw this - one BIG issue


This was a well-made movie and very entertaining - I just had one problem.




SPOILERS



At the end, Polley repeatedly says she wanted the story in order to tell everyone's versions of the events and of her mother, and expose the differences in their 'truths'. But everyone basically agrees - there are absolutely no differing perspectives about her mom's character, or about what happened. No one disagrees about anything. And she never says, 'I realized everyone agreed about my mom's character' - she just reinforces the false notion that everyone is telling a different version. Did that bug anyone else?

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Yeah; it bothered me as well. Also: notice that Sarah's mom is "played" by an actress. And she's not the only one. The cast mixes actual family members with actors portraying them...

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The people played themselves in the present - some of the past 'home movie' footage was made for the movie using actors. Just look at the credits.

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This is no secret in the film either. There is a section that reveals these actors and actresses in the same room as Sarah Polley, and it is deliberately shown that there is modern filmmaking equipment present and make up being applied to what we were led to believe are the real articles. It was revealed as a twist, basically.

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Agree with the consensus. Trying to push this film as a study in differing perceptions is a huge leap. I like Sarah Polley and want to support her but no, that is some pretty preposterous spin.

The differences people have brought up in this thread are the sort of trivial stuff that would be almost impossible not to occur among a bunch of humans over long-past events. Humans are notoriously bad witnesses when it comes to obvious stuff that just happened right under their noses. To have a few differences of perception in nuanced peripheral stuff that happened 35 years past - frankly, that's as unremarkable as it gets.

Having seen studies about how goofy people can be with matters of observation and memory, the most striking thing about this film was how stunningly close to unanimous everyone was. There is SO much room for memory to be twisted by emotion - it would be so natural - but it doesn't happen.

Amazingly rational, clear-thinking bunch.

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Sarah Polley's mom died in 1990. Could that be why? So they wouldn't have to rely on footage.

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Same here. Saw it today and marvelled at it but didn't see the inconsistencies mentioned either. Had read something about it beforehand but loved how the main parts were played so well by such accomplished actors. Ms. Polley has produced a wonderful follow-up to "Away From Her".

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That's a fair point, but overall I didn't have a problem with the substance of the film. What annoyed me was the film's delivery in the final stretch. For about four or five scenes, the film's narrative acts as if its seconds aways from ending, but then has one more thing to add and then one more thing, and then one more thing. I found that annoying, but it didn't keep me from respecting the film as a whole. That may be an esoteric mode of storytelling but it took away from what up to that point had been a great film with some wonderful truths in it.

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There's no question that many critics are greatly over-emphasizing the degree of disagreement in the stories. This is hardly Rashomon.

However, the film is indeed chock full of small differences. The key is that the viewer is almost always instantly able to recognize these as different sides of the same truth, rather than contradictions. For instance, after several friends report that Diane knew she was dying, Michael opines that she didn't know, and as evidence, tells the story of her stripping a table so that it could be refinished, as part of a larger project which she could never complete. You immediately understand that this was almost certainly Diane not wanting to act like she knew she was dying when she was with her immediate family (and enjoying the sort of process of denial that this entailed).

The point of the "many truths" is not that they contradict one another, but that they complement one another. No one person has the full picture. Only when you hear Diane's story from multiple perspectives does a complete portrait emerge, and no one soul, not even Michael, had access to that full truth.

We all turn our experiences into our memories, which are the stories we tell. A documentary about really messed up people would probably feature flat-out contradictions, because messed-up people tend to falsify their memories. These are reasonably well-adjusted people whose memories are merely limited by their sole perspective and sculpted to fit their ordinary emotional needs. The individual memories are pieces of a puzzle, but they are pieces that do fit together.

Prepare your minds for a new scale of physical, scientific values, gentlemen.

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The film was about 30 minutes too long. And the fake footage bothered me. Perhaps it was another way of saying that truth is often elusive.

But there were more differences between the stories. For instance, some said Diana had no secrets. Others said he had lots of secrets. And the big difference was many knew of her affair while others had no clue.

Also, each character had a different reason to tell their story. Look at the gossip lady who named the wrong person...she was smiling as she did so. She loved to gossip and it showed. And Harry wanted the story to be about him. While, Sarah was looking for answers where there were no answers.

In my opinion, the part about Michael saying Diana did not know she was dying showed how clueless he was and how emotionally detached they were as a couple.

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I agree with you on the length.

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Me too.

Reassuring to see my feeling isn't misplaced.

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Also, her mom and biological father thought that they were quite open about their relationship, and all her friends knew. But, in the end it's said that all of her friends were shocked when they heard about what kind of relationship her mom and "bio-dad" had shared. They all thought that it was someone else who was Sarah Polley's father.

It ain't about inconsistencies in their stories, it's about how no one had the complete true story. Which is what Sarah gives us by piecing together, through interviews, all of the different pieces to form the complete true story. You're not spoon-fed about how differently they saw Sarah's mother, you'll just have to figure out for yourself how different their story must have been with only part of the whole truth.

Seek to understand, not judge.

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Yes, emvan! So well said.

I was so impressed with the emotional honesty of all of her family members - they had all pondered the situation deeply and were trying to tell their stories and be fair. How rare is that? Such a great gift. And yes, it's their memories and their perspectives that come together. It should neither be "everything meshes to show the 'truth'" NOR "every story is different and thus contradictory" - it's a complex blend.

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emvan,
I appreciate your thoughtful analysis (from two years ago), and completely agree with your reference to the importance of 'collective memory'.

A person very close to me spent her final few days disregarding tasks that would outlive her, while subtly reminding those close to her that she loved them, and tidying up the garden where she would end her life. She knew that this place would soon be filled with bereaved loved ones, which it indeed was. As the years pass since her death, at family gatherings I'm struck by the absence of her contribution to the collective memory. Everyone relating their personal recollection is being complete and honest, yet her perspectives of the story are forever missing. Crucial portions of an unfinished jig-saw image that can now only be guessed-at by those surviving contributing their parts.

In 'Stories We Tell', as in life, even if Diane Polley's contemporary voice were present, there would still be ambiguities. Memory seems to reinterpret our experience almost immediately, which underscores the value of the collective memory.

I applaud Sarah Polley for presenting this very personal story, and feel she did her courageous best with what remained of fading, individual perspectives while they were still accessible.


Soon you will be dead, and your name as but a vapor,
and all those who remember your name will also soon be dead.
(paraphrase of Marcus Aurelius)

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There seemed to be a big difference in how people think Diane reacted to news of her pregnancy. One son said she was delighted--it was something new and she loved new things. Everyone else said she was really conflicted about it. (And her change of mind on the way to the clinic would seem to prove this version correct.)
Otherwise, I agree. There really weren't wildly divergent perspectives on events.)

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I'm so sorry that people don't remember right, or don't interpret right the elements of the film. It shows that even a simple exercise like this can be problematic to viewers. Her son was speaking about her delight after she decided to keep the baby. Michael wasn't clueless, he didn't want to speak about Diane's confrontation with death (he was the private one and chose all the time what he wanted to say). What disturbed me in the story was the competition between three intelligent people on who was going to appropriate the story. Harry probably wanted to make a movie, Sarah wanted this documentary and Michael wanted to write about it. I didn't get a clear image of Diane. We never heard her thinking, but this was kept on purpose because it wasn't about a clear portrait of her. Overall Diane was exploited by the two wining parties in this competition.

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I agree with this. At the end, the three main parties -- who had all been involved with show-business, filmmaking & writing to various extents -- all realize that this would make an interesting narrative, and they seem to squabble a little bit over who gets to tell the story. It stopped being about emotional family history and Diane and started being about how they could best frame the tale for public consumption.

Diane still seems mysterious to me. Where did she grow up? What were her parents like? I wanted to know these things.

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The differences in perspectives were rather subtle but they were there. I actually enjoyed that Polley did not hit her audience in the head with them. Some examples:

1) Harry is certain that Michael knew about the affair because of the way they interacted at her funeral. It turns out Michael didn't even know Harry was there.

2) A big one: Harry thought Diane was passionately in love with him and she did not leave Michael for the sake of her kids as a huge sacrifice. The family on the other hand believed that her heart belonged to Michael all along despite their flawed union. That's huge, isn't it? That's why Harry was so annoyed that Sarah wanted to give everyone an equal voice. He knew his version of the relationship had no chance to be told the way he wanted it. To him, he was the love of Diane's life. To the family, he was Sarah's father from a short-lived affair.

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I can't believe people keep posting that they agree with the OP after your post. And you're not the only one having mentioned differences, albeit more subtle ones.

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Yeah, those are pretty big differences. I need to rewatch it!

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A very good post, but, I also still believe the OP is relevant: they are subtle differences, not substantial enough around which to revolve the whole story.

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Right, with all the talk of the frailty of memory, and so on, I expected a BIG twist. For us to feel like we're watching one story about paternity and a mother who had died... but for it to suddenly flip and become something totally different. But it actually proceeded in a fairly straight-forward way.

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I waited for a twist too, something interesting. It never came.

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I think that might be Polley's point - everyone involved had their own point of view of what situations meant.

Based on their own perspectives, they have created their own scenarios of what is the truth. Some may be right or maybe they are all wrong.

No one can really say at this point, what was the truth for her mother.

We can only listen and draw our on conclusions (of course, these too are coloured by our own experiences)

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I had a major problem with that as well. The differences were subtle with the exception of egomaniac Harry.

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God he was an egomaniac wasn't he? Didn't like him at all. And he's dreaming when he says their weeks-long love affair would have remain unchanged had she stayed with him.

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Thanks! I had read reviews that mentioned the inconsistencies among different versions of the story, and thought I was going crazy when I couldn't identify them. So it's not just me then..

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