Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Favourite Things in 2012 #2 Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley's beautiful autobiographical documentary exploring her own DNA (literally) is my second  shared favourite thing of 2012. Painstakingly crafted, it peels back layers of rumour and gossip to reveal a mother's heart beating and a child's journey of discovery back to her, through the search for her biological father. Polley takes us on one thread after another of implication and innuendo from family members and friends, while also re-imagining her mother through staged re-enactments that are more kaleidoscope impressions than narrative. Even the trailer is beautiful, modeling the careful structure of the film. (Watch how a shot of Sarah laughing becomes a shot of her mother doing the same; how a home movie angle is juxtaposed to the recreated image of Rebecca Jenkins on a train.) Polley seems to be telling us that what we remember is also what we imagine and truth is a delicate business. Then there is the story I too layer on top of hers, my own experience. Visiting the set of Road to Avonlea in 1991, every day for a week, I listened and watched as the little blue-gowned blonde-haired star went by, so hard-working and focussed. And meanwhile those around me whispered quietly behind her back, "Poor thing. Her mother has just died." Now, because of the seamless transitions of heart and mind that Polley builds for us, I could swear my memory was part of the film.

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