Backed by strong performances from Laura Dern and Isabelle Nélisse (Mama), Jennifer Fox’s The Tale is a powerful Sundance movie that demands attention as the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements continue to shed light on stories of abuse.
Fox’s film is autobiographical in the most exacting detail, to the point that Dern and Nélisse play the character of ‘Jennifer Fox’ at different ages: Dern as the documentary-filmmaker adult who rediscovers ‘The Tale’ a story written by the then 13-year-old Fox (Nélisse) who speaks of her first love. That man is a 40-year-old running coach Bill (played by Jason Ritter), but in the young Fox’s tale, their relationship has been framed as entirely consensual and loving. It is only as the older Fox reexamines her past that it occurs to her that she was groomed and abused by Bill, and 40 years of pain bubble to the surface. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and boyfriend (Common, in a small but touchingly realized role) help her come to terms with the truth she discovers.
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