While The Tale is a film that certainly would benefit from a theatrical release, it’s best viewed at home because of all the screaming at the screen. This is, in part, due to the events that transpire on screen during the 1970s.
The question at hand while viewing the film, which runs shy of two hours, is whether or not it qualifies as a Me, Too film. Writer/director Jennifer Fox, a documentary filmmaker, uses a short story written when she was a teenager as the basis for her first narrative feature. Laura Dern stands in for the director with a beautifully acted performance. Put it this way: if The Tale got a theatrical release, Dern would be a surefire Oscar contender. Give her the damn Emmy right now–Dern’s work in this film is that good.
As an older woman now working as a documentary filmmaker, Jennifer examines her own memories from a sexual encounter during her childhood. This comes as a result of her worried mother, Nettie (Ellen Burstyn) discovering her childhood journals. Nettie has every right to be worried after reading what Jennifer’s running coach, Bill (Jason Ritter), did to her as a child. It’s an absolute horror for any parent to read of their child being raped. There’s no getting around this–even if it took Jennifer a long time to realize what had been done–she was raped by her coach when she was a teen.
It’s not just her mom but also her fiancé, Martin (Common), that help put Jennifer down the path to revisit her past from thirty years earlier. People have a way of suppressing the horror that happens to them as a child. While Jennifer initially claims that it’s because of the way that things happened in the 1970s, there’s a further root that needed to be investigated. But once you open the cracks to memories, things have a way of leading to more questions than answers. So here’s Jennifer some thirty years later seeking out her riding instructor, Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki), Bill, and all those children who attended summer camp together.
To help get to the bottom of things with an older Bill (John Heard) and Mrs. G (Frances Conroy), Jennifer pictures herself having a conversation with her younger self, (Isabelle Nélisse).
The Tale is not a wonderful story by any means but it’s so beautifully crafted by Jennifer Fox with a career-best performance by actress Laura Dern.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Jennifer Fox
CAST: Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy, John Heard, with Common and Ellen Burstyn
The Tale held its world premiere during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. HBO aired The Tale on Saturday, May 26, 2018. The film will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and select streaming platforms.