2012 / Director. Sarah Polley.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Canadian actress Sarah Polley explores her own family's past in this intriguing and avant-guarde documentary. I was drawn to the film because of my own respect for her as an artist. I had grown up watching her on television and she had become a recurring figure in my own exploration with Canadian cinema. Were it not for my own vested interest I am not sure I would have ever found the film at all. Curiously while watching it I questioned its purpose and cinematic relevance. Of course if a story is interesting then why not tell it, right? But there was something inappropriate about the whole thing and I felt like I was privy to a private world that I had no business being part of. Of course it is the salacious and scandalous aspect of the story that underpins the experimental nature of the film itself. During her late 20s Polley discovered that her biological father was not the man who raised her and that her mother had taken some very deep secrets to her grave. They are the type of secrets that had the potential to destroy lives and would be very damaging if exposed. What Polley does with this information is quite extraordinary as she summons her entire family as well as others who played significant roles in the story and interviews them separately. Where most filmmakers would piece together a cohesive narrative she brazenly allows them to recall the history from their own impressions and she explores the inconsistencies and nuances of their recollections. Each person's story is true to them and their emotional attachments are none less significant from the others, regardless of contradictions and misunderstandings. It's a very interesting and provocative exploration of a story, which elicits the viewers own reflections about their own lives. Part of Polley's motivation to examine her own life was to counteract media speculation that had been brewing about her family ties. Rather than become the subject of tabloid gossip she harnessed her energies and beat them to the chase. She allows each story its own value which, in turn, gives the film shifting focal points. The result is an exceptional and complex film that treats each player respectfully while coaxing them to reveal some incredibly personal and private information. Were it not for the compelling and original presentation it would be a story we have no business sticking our noses into. Wonderful stuff.