DVD Review: Stories We Tell

Director: Sarah Polley
Screenplay: Sarah Polley
Starring: Michael Polley, John Buchan, Mark Polley
Producer: Anita Lee
Country: Canada
Running Time: 108 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 12

The run of great documentaries dominating my list of films of the year continues with Sarah Polley’s excellent Stories We Tell.

Sarah Polley is probably known best as an actress, starring in films such as Go, Dawn of the Dead (the 2004 remake) and Splice as well as a long stint on US TV series Avonlea as a child. However, over the last decade she’s been quietly making quite a name for herself as a director. Although her feature debut All I Want For Christmas in 2002 came and went with little fanfare (I can’t find any information about it online), Away From Her, released in 2006, picked up some fantastic reviews. In 2011 she directed Take This Waltz which also had a number of admirers and now that Stories We Tell has been pulling in awards and plaudits on the festival circuit she is becoming a force to be reckoned with, even if her films aren’t setting the box office on fire.

Stories We Tell shows a new side to Polley’s talents, turning her hand to documentary filmmaking to create a deeply personal piece. The film takes a look at the Polley family, focussing largely on Sarah’s mother Dianne Polley. I wouldn’t like to say too much as to what exactly happens within the family, as part of the strength of the film is the way its story is told, but basically the family has secrets, some of which hadn’t been unearthed until quite recently.

The unravelling of these mysteries is masterfully controlled, told through talking heads with all available living relatives and friends relevant to the story. The appropriate soundbites are held off until just the right moment, making my note-taking during the film a mess as I tried to anticipate where things were going but failed throughout.

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Cinecast Episode 294 – Gennero-ic

Matt Gamble makes a brief appearance in this episode where he extols upon the virtues of teen witches (and Emma Thompson.) He is also rather confident he knows something about Oscar. Kurt believes only a fool bets against Abe-Frakkin-Lincoln and Matt can Argo-fuck-himself. Andrew discusses the Teal n’ Orange edition of Officer John McClane and his adventures in Mother Russia as Daddy Car-crusher. Another Take this Waltz debate ensues. Kurt also caught an early screening of Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and despite being under a gag-order, encourages people to flock to the cinema for this unusually stylish blend of Hollywood and Korean aesthetics. A fun and eclectic Watch List including old school mega-epics (Frankly, my dears, we don’t give a damn), Ricky Jay on Henry David Thoreau and dramatic Steve Martin, early Cameron Crowe flirtations ghetto blasters and the IRS troubles, and ends with Andrew trouble with tribulations in his Blindspotting adventures that lead to just a re-watch of Star Trek II.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Trailer: Take This Waltz


Sarah Polley’s follow-up drama to Away From Here is really, really good. It is kind of similar in its inevitable, conflicted melancholy tone, but that is perhaps even more jarring due to the young age of the characters. It is also likely the most Toronto-heavy film since Bruce McDonald’s Picture Claire (or perhaps Atom Egoyan’s Chloe) but don’t hold that as a value judgement or comparison! The prop-details right down to the brands of micro-brew and eccentric Toronto neighborhoods, including nostalgia stops and touristy attractions reveal that Take this Waltz making a bid for some seriously textured Canadiana. Consider it all easter eggs for the locals, the movie has crumbling relationships and existential crises of happiness on the brain and certainly at the forefront.

The Leonard Cohen song is covered by Feist, and really, that should blow your mind in some small way (albeit it’s not used in the trailer below.) It’s equal parts Blue Valentine and Closer, and if you are in any way familiar with the tastes of Mike Rot, you will in no way be surprised that it was his favourite TIFF film entry from last year. He politely dragged me to see the film when it played at Canada’s Top 10 2011 retrospective and yea, I’m pretty comfortable saying that is indeed really good (lagging only slightly behind Cafe De Flore and Monsieur Lazhar – a strong year for Canadian Cinema). It’s finally getting a cinema release, and that means we are blessed with this fairly linear and standard bit of advertising below.

Take This Waltz will first come to VOD on May 25th and then get a theatrical release on June 29th.

When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniell (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogan), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint.

TIFF 2011: First Wave of Titles Announced



A number of the Row Three Staff make it an annual ritual to see between 30 and 50 films during the month of September when Toronto is taken over by its largest celebration of cinema from around the world, The Toronto International Film Festival, aka TIFF. So the first announcement of titles is interesting because it often goes back to what the festival was many moons ago: a Festival of Festivals, where best films from Cannes, Berlin and Sundance (amongst others) are offered to local audiences. Of course the festival has gotten bigger over the years (and much more expensive) and World Premieres are also par for the course, but this first announcement allows to see many of the ‘big titles’ (aka Special Presentations and Masters programmes) with guaranteed distribution will make their World, North American or Canadian debuts.

A quick survey by director offers new films from David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method), Lars Von Trier (Melancholia), Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In), Francis Ford Coppola (Twixt), Fernando Meirelles (360), Alexander Payne (The Descendents), Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive), Steve McQueen (Shame), Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz), George Clooney (The Ides of March), Roland Emmerich (Anonymous), Todd Solondz (Dark Horse), Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea), and Luc Besson (The Lady).

Other titles of interest is the former Soderbergh project starring Brad Pitt, Moneyball, as well as a lot of stuff from popular music, including Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam documentary, David Guggenheim’s U2 documentary and a feature film from Madonna simply titled W.E.

Some interesting genre films, including the James Ellroy adaptation, Rampart, which has a loaded cast: Woody Harrelson, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Ned Beatty, Ben Foster and Anne Heche. South Korean thriller The Countdown exposes uses the underbelly of Seoul as a backdrop for a thirller. The Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde comedy, Butter, which also features Kristen Schaal. Noirish Killer Joe features Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Juno Temple and Gina Gershon. And the B&W silent comedy favourite at Cannes, Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist will be screening, as will Joseph Gordon-Levitt cancer comedy, 50/50 which also features Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Phillip Baker Hall and Anjelica Huston

In the more dramatic side of things, I’ve been quite anticipating Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur which features Peter Mullan as an angry, cynical alcoholic who has reached rock-bottom is surprisingly brought back into life by a complete stranger: a middle-class woman with a strong belief in Christ. Eddie Marsan is also in it. Also Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilley star in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin. Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas star in Lasse Halstrom’s Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. And from the directors of Persepolis comes another enchanting film adaptation of a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi: Chicken with Plums follows the last days of a talented musician’s (Mathieu Amalric) life as he desperately seeks to replace his beloved instrumental, the violin.

There are many titles, 50 in all so far, for those who wish to peruse over at the TIFF website.

From The Archives…Our 2009 SPLICE Review

[Listening to this weeks Mamo, I see that I completely do not see eye to eye with Matty Price on this film, but I can understand why he may have that reaction to the film, and since we were in the same audience last year, I remember the non-response of the room. Basically, I can feel where he is coming from even if I do not agree. The film had an arduous route to finally get to the big screen (a lot of help from the festival circuit and a plethora of high profile executive producers.) That it is getting a 2500 screen wide release (wow!) today and apropos of the masses finally getting a chance to meet Dren, here is my review from August 2009]


The elegantly named Splice is Canadian science-fiction filmmaker (and occasional documentarian) Vincenzo Natali‘s most handsomely crafted film to date. The film is surprising because it is not the usual action and chase oriented creature-feature, but rather a genre mash of science fiction and a young parenting drama. Freudian family politics with bio-evolution in fast-forward? Let us just see how elastic a genre movie can get! This is the sort of thing that David Cronenberg was famous for up to and including 1999s underrated eXistenZ. With Cronenberg’s recent efforts moving towards more traditional narratives, with the literal gooey body/mind psychology now relegated to tattoos and submerged personalities, Splice picks up the torch where mainstream hit (and rare successful remake) The Fly left off. Wherein the anxieties of the 1980s, The fear of STDs (after all, the merging of Seth Brundle and an exterior ‘bug’ and the body decaying on a graphic level) are updated to post-millennial parenting pressures. The number of social and medical choices which stress out the anxieties of expecting parents is one of the interesting paths that Splice unexpectedly wanders down.

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A second trailer for Vincenzo Natali’s SPLICE


While none of the distributions houses has been putting posters out (there are a few sparse festival one-sheets, but they are not very elaborate, here comes a second trailer for Canadian genetic engineering genre-mash Splice.

Much better than the first trailer (here) this one forgoes the jump scares and gets more into the relationship, implications of letting loose a new species which is a collection of a lot of different spare parts. Frankenstein’s monster anyone? Well this is the 21st century version. And she is both more deadly and more cute.

Splice drops into wide release (!) in June.

BONUS: the release version is apparently uncensored version from the one I caught last September (My Review) .

The new trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Trailer for Vincenzo Natali’s SPLICE


From the “about goddamn time file” comes the first proper trailer for the Canadian genetic engineering genre-mash Splice.

The trailer makers are not exactly selling what the movie is (make no mistake this is way more drama than jump-scare and more Cronenberg than Cameron) but I am nevertheless happy that folks are finally going to get to see this beast when it drops into cinemas in June (BONUS: the release version is apparently uncensored version from the one I caught last September (My Review)) .

Splice Trailer is tucked under the seat.

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First Look at Natali’s Splice


I can’t believe the boys haven’t jumped on this yet. Seriously, the first clip from Vincenzo Natali’s much anticipated Splice is floating around the web and we still haven’t posted it? For shame. To make matters worse, the clip isn’t just good, it’s awesome. Don’t believe me?

Check it out, it is tucked under the seat.

Still no updated release date but our buds over in Spain have two more chances to see it. Buggers. For now, we simply have be patient, enjoy the clip and drool over Kurt’s review.

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TIFF 09 Review: Mr Nobody

Director: Jaco van Dormael (The Eighth Day, Totò the Hero)
Writer: Jaco van Dormael
Editors: Matyas Veress, Susan Shipton
Producer: Philippe Godeau
Starring: Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Toby Regbo, Juno Temple, Diane Kruger, Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little
MPAA Rating: 14A
Running time: 138 min.

One of the oddest, most thoughtful and certainly ambitious film screening at this year’s Toronto Film Festival is certainly Jaco van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody. But this is also one of the most intelligent scripts I’ve yet to see this year. Mixing hard science fact, hypothesis and theories with classic philosophy and drama, Mr. Nobody dives into all manner of possibilities wrapped around quite an enigmatic tale of love, choice and opportunities seized and lost.

To attempt a synopsis in under 1000 words seems almost futile, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. The film starts in the future of 2092. The oldest man in the world, Nemo Nobody, has captured the attention of the world as the last man that will ever die of old age since automatic cell regeneration has been achieved. Nemo sits in a hospital of sorts and recounts his life first to a sort of doctor/hypnotist, then later to a journalist. The tale weaved starts before Nemo’s birth as he tells the process a soul goes through before choosing its parents. The story then moves through adolescence and into manhood but in a nonlinear fashion. We see several versions of Nemo’s life had he made one choice over another and we move back and forth in time to get different perspectives of different events and indeed different and sometimes intersecting lifetimes. As I said, not the easiest of plots to explain in words, but if you were to combine Abre los Ojos (Vanilla Sky) with Gwynneth Paltrow’s Sliding Doors, you have a rough idea the style in which the narrative is told. Add some elements and the influence of such films as Slaughterhouse 5, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the warm hearted drama and tone of Amélie (just to name a few) into the mix and you understand the ambitiousness that the film strives for. Unbelievably, it succeeds beyond expectations and then some!
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Polley Takes On Regal Role

SarahPolleyA trailblazer often held up as an icon for both lesbian and feminist communities, Queen Christina of Sweden was quite the individual. She began her reign in 1644, a mere 18 years of age, in the midst of a devastating war. During her reign she managed to negotiate an end to the Thirty Year’s War, expressed strong views on femininity, cross dressed and through it all, followed her heart through a string of romantic entanglements that never materialized into marriage. She was eventually abdicated from the throne for what is believed to be her affiliation to the Catholic Church while ruling a Protestant country. Hers was, shall we say, a colorful life.

Her story has seen numerous incarnations in both stage plays and books along with a few films and it appears as though audiences will revel in her adventures once more. Variety is reporting that Mika Kaurismäki is directing a new rendition of Christina’s story, this one penned by Canadian writer Michel Marc Bouchard.

In and of itself, this would already be something of interest to me, a girl enamored with all things period, but the fact that Sarah Polley will star in the title role puts this Canadian-Nordic co-production on the tracking list. Polley as a Swedish Queen? Why, yes please!

FWC’s DVD Club: Away from Her

DVD ClubAround these parts, we love great film and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I’m always on the lookout for the next best thing in Canadian film. The First Weekend Club is dedicated to sharing the best Canada has to offer and though some of the selections may not always make it to theatres across the border or around the world, there is always the DVD release. Enter the DVD Club.

Every month the First Weekend Club announces a DVD selection along with a special guest – someone involved with the film who will participate and interact with fans in the forum. We here at Row Three also love a great discussion and what could be better than chatting up a storm with the star, director or producer of that film you just watched? Yeah, I thought that might get you a bit excited.

Away From Her

This month’s selection is Sarah Polley’s Away from Her staring Gordon Pinsent, Stacey LaBerge and Julie Christie. For those who haven’t seen it, now would be the time to check out Polley’s fantastic feature directorial debut while those of us who have seen it may want to re-visit the film to part take in some discussion with this month’s guests Gordon Pinsent and Kristen Thomson.