This is a FREE FILM. We are showing The Tale in support of CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse), who will be taking a collection at the end of the film.
At a time when sexual assault cases and crimes against women are on the rise, comes this devastating and deservedly disturbing account of sexual assault by a survivor. The film is based on director Jennifer Fox’s personal experience. The Tale epitomises a year dominated incrementally by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement. Fox frames this narrative around a story that delineates the presentation of a memory shrouded in layers of romance, guilt, agony and self-loathing, which, when unravelled, finds a form of its own.
It is is a cinematic memoir of sexual abuse that’s pieced together before our eyes, with Laura Dern playing Jennifer Fox and Isabelle Nélisse her 13-year-old self — with whom Dern’s Fox eventually argues, across three-and-a-half decades. The Tale’s genesis is a real, tender short story written by the 13-year-old Fox that her mother (Ellen Burstyn as a 70-something Laura Allen in flashbacks) discovers, reads with horror, and mails to her 48-year-old daughter. The letter, titled The Tale, details the relationship she once had with an older man (Jason Ritter). Jenny half-remembers the relationship but has consigned it to the more shadowed recesses of her mind. The most unusual aspect of The Tale is that the male abuser isn’t the keenest focus of Fox’s memories. It’s the enabling woman — a tall, sleek English equestrian called Mrs. G, played by Elizabeth Debicki, who’s stripped down to chill elegance in short blonde hair.
Jennifer’s teenage story is rosy but her mother is convinced that her daughter was raped. Having blocked the truth under romantic illusions for so many years, Jennifer resists that definition, and argues that her mother just doesn’t understand. But from within herself, she feels the need to unravel the truth behind that nostalgic account. Soon, she becomes obsessed with delving into her past and tracking down the people involved.
The form changes thereafter with the narrative merging into a dialogue questioning the elusive nature of memory. Initially flashy and beautifully represented, Fox’s narrative starts getting hazy with contradictory information, and then resolves to something infinitely devastating. The director assuredly guides us through the confusion while preparing us for the eventual decryption of that initial romantic allusion.
The build-up of emotion and rage is subtle, and gains momentum as the reveals get clearer. Dern manages to convey the complex nature of the survivor’s psyche with a rare finesse. Combined with Fox’s analytic approach, the story steadily revs up to a devastation that is all the more powerful, as it coolly sheds the cobwebs that have shrouded the actual truth over the years.