Watching: The Films of Sarah Polley

… and power of personal narrative.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.

ADVERTISEMENT

Your weekly double feature: Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley in a scene from “Stories We Tell.”Roadside Attractions

‘Stories We Tell’ and ‘Away From Her’

Before she moved behind the camera, the Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley was cast in pivotal roles in Atom Egoyan’s “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter,” playing sensitive teenagers who are asked to keep secrets and advance a carefully crafted fiction. These lies, told at the behest of adults, carry different emotional burdens in both films, but Polley surely took away something about the deceptive power of personal narrative.

ADVERTISEMENT

Little did Polley know at the time how much it would apply to her own life. While the secret at the center of her brilliant documentary “Stories We Tell,” now streaming on the Criterion Channel, isn’t nearly as scandalous as those in the Egoyan films, she has turned the truth about her parentage into a prismatic family memoir. Sitting her father, her siblings and other relevant parties in front of the camera, Polley asks each of them questions about her deceased mother, a free-spirited actress who didn’t take easily to domestic convention. As one big revelation comes to light, the memories of her subjects start to deviate from a shared set of facts, and Polley shrewdly reflects these disruptions by upending the documentary form itself.

Polley’s directorial debut, “Away From Her,” is fictional but much more straightforward, and memories are once again a devastating central theme. Adapting the Alice Munro short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” Polley registers the fallout from an unusual affair. As the effects of a woman’s Alzheimer’s disease put distance between herself (Julie Christie) and her husband (Gordon Pinsent) after 44 years of marriage, the woman takes up with a mute and wheelchair-bound man in an Ontario nursing home. For the husband, coming to terms with the pain of this betrayal requires summoning a love that only he can remember. SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “Stories We Tell” on the Criterion Channel. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “Away From Her” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

Review: ‘Clarice’ Is More CBS Cop Show Than ‘Hannibal’

The series continues the story that began with Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels, but the result is an unremarkable network crime drama.

By Margaret Lyons

Article Image

The Projectionist

It Could Be the Most Diverse Oscars Ever, but the Problem Isn’t Solved

More women and people of color are expected to be nominated in this year’s top Oscar races. Still, some old biases remain.

By Kyle Buchanan

Article Image

Why Idris Elba Chose Comedy to Tell His Most Personal Story

“In the Long Run,” a sweetly comic series set in 1980s London, is based on the real-life childhood of an actor best known for intense dramas like “The Wire” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

By Salamishah Tillet

Article Image

What Megan Mullally Likes: Soft T-Shirts and Sad Songs

A star of the animated Fox comedy “The Great North” swears by Instagram street dance videos, vintages Ts and “Promising Young Woman.”

By Alexis Soloski

Article Image

Britney Spears Conservatorship Case Heads Back to Court

After a new documentary about Spears by The New York Times was shown, calls to #FreeBritney were joined by a new message: “We are sorry, Britney.”

By Julia Jacobs

Article Image

ADVERTISEMENT

Like this email?
Forward it to your friends, and let them know they can sign up here.

Tips and advice to help you live a little smarter
Since you receive Watching, we think you’ll like the Smarter Living newsletter as well. Every Monday, get a weekly roundup of the best advice from The Times on living a better, more fulfilling life. Sign up here.

Need help? Review our newsletter help page or contact us for assistance.

You received this email because you signed up for Watching from The New York Times.

To stop receiving these emails, unsubscribe or manage your email preferences.

Subscribe to The Times

Connect with us on:

facebook twitter instagram

Change Your EmailPrivacy PolicyContact UsCalifornia Notices

The New York Times Company. 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018