This episode focuses on three films, Stories We Tell, Louder Than Bombs, and Mouthpiece, united by their focus on dead mothers and formally expressive explorations of grief, memory, and subjectivity.
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Content warning: This episode discusses suicide
This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, Associate Editor Brett Pardy, and Editor-at-Large Mary Angela Rowe.
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Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
Sarah Polley’s film is more creative nonfiction than documentary: a film about uncovering and unpacking her family’s history that is itself designed to draw our attention to the art of storytelling on film. Reenactments that feel like home videos can be mistaken for fact, and interviews with multiple people in the family reveal often conflicting perspectives. Polley lets us see herself in the frame with a camera or in direct dialogue with her subjects, as a reminder that not only is she choosing the questions and directing the conversations, but also curating the footage and how it’s presented. Many people tell their stories in this film; Polley gets the final say in the cutting room.
Louder Than Bombs (Joachim Trier, 2015)
Louder Than Bombs delves into the inner lives of three characters in the Reed family: the sensitive patriarch Gene (Gabriel Byrne) and his two sons — new father Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and socially awkward teenager Conrad (Devin Druid) — who are dealing (or not) with the death of family matriarch Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert). The film switches perspectives between the three men, like a fictional version of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, as we try to understand what they’re going through. Though tied together by grief, the men are disconnected from one another, rarely even sharing the same frame. Yet they’re brought back together in their family home for the first time since her death three years ago thanks to a new retrospective of Isabelle’s war photography. A forthcoming New York Times article to publicize the exhibit will also reveal new information about how Isabelle died — something Conrad, who was twelve at the time, doesn’t know — which exposes old wounds.
Mouthpiece (Patricia Rozema, 2018)
Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava (also the film’s writers) simultaneously play two sides of the same woman, Cassandra, as she prepares for her mother’s (Maev Beaty) funeral. Her preparations lead to her grappling with the contradictions of her mother’s second-wave feminism and the female experience of living under the patriarchy. Director Patricia Rozema collaborated with Nostbakken and Sadava to adapt their play to the screen.
Show notes and recommended reading
- Read our special edition on Louder Than Bombs, which includes a review and interviews with director Joachim Trier and cinematographer Jakob Ihre.
- Listen to our podcast episode on Mouthpiece. Brett left before we discussed Mouthpiece, but he was on this episode.
- Read Alex’s interview with Mouthpiece director Patricia Rozema and actors Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, who all co-wrote the film
- For more on Mouthpiece and other great recent Canadian films, preview or purchase our ebook, The 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook
- Pre-order our newest ebook on Kelly Reichardt
Where to watch
- Stories We Tell is available on VOD, as well as streaming on the National Film Board website in Canada, on Tubi in the US, and on Tubi and Stan in Australia
- Louder Than Bombs is available on VOD and streaming on Prime in Canada and the US and on Kanopy in the US and Australia.
- Mouthpiece is available on VOD and streaming on Kanopy in the US and Australia