Getting to the ‘truth’ of family relationships.
I’ve just returned home from presenting at a couple of conferences on the east coast: National Men’s Health Forum & Infant and Early Childhood
Social & Emotional Wellbeing Conference. On the flight home I took up a colleague’s suggestion to watch a documentary style movie, “Stories We Tell”. This powerful portrayal of a family happens to capture really well the heart of the messages I gave in my talks.
Sarah Polley’s film manages to give insight into the multiple meanings and truths her family construct around their relationships. In particular, she takes us on her journey of discovering who her father is.
Sarah’s mother died when she was 11 and she was then cared for by her father – who she much later discovers is not her biological father. The interviews with family members and friends of her mother uncover surprising and long kept secrets, but also unveiled hidden complexities, passions, loyalties and suspicions. No, this isn’t dramatized Hollywood entertainment – just a sneak preview into the realities of family and intimate relationships.
The humour and spontaneity of the interviews is wonderfully natural and engaging, along with thoughtful pauses and the moments of revelation. The story created by this journey of enquiry somehow weaves the different narratives together into a very believable but wonderful account of life, love and loss.
The family members’ different perspectives highlight an important paradox. On the one hand a father’s involvement in a child’s life is profoundly important; on the other, some fathers cannot be present and yet the father-child relationship can still be profoundly meaningful – for him and for his child throughout their lifespan. In Sarah’s case, she is able to appreciate the involvement of her childhood father as well as the meaningfulness of connecting with her biological father.
Polley’s stories provide the following lessons …
Even though this film’s subject matter is not explicitly about fatherhood, I highly recommend this movie to those interested in the role of fathers. If you watch it, I encourage you to take note of the different experiences of fatherhood from both the fathers and those experiencing their fatherhood. And I suggest you watch it in a place you feel free to laugh out loud, and shed a few tears.
Sadly this movie is not easy to get in Australia. I have managed to ordered it from one particular Amazon seller…