Sundance London 2018 Preview - The Tale
Dir: Jennifer Fox
Starring Laura Dern, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabelle Nelisse, John Heard, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy, Common
Jennifer Fox’s autobiographical tale of surviving and coming to understand childhood sexual abuse, is (as it is in the movie) based around her discovery as an adult of a childhood essay which forced her to revaluate her first relationship with a forty year old man – when she was just thirteen. The movie opens with a disclaimer warning the viewer of what is to come, but this is a movie that is handled with the utmost sensitivity. Yet, as this tale, unfolds it becomes increasingly uncomfortable as the young Jenny Fox (a very impressive Nelisse) goes to Mrs G’s stables for the summer, and we soon come to learn that it is more than the horses that are being groomed.
Fox plays around with both form and style, and especially memory, even false memory – when she begins recounting her tale she is 15, before realising she was only 13, forcing her to re-show us the early images of her film through even younger eyes. As it progresses, the character of Fox, a real-life documentarian, starts to interview her characters off-camera, as she slowly unravels the events of her early experience. And one of the great successes of her film is how non -sensationally these experiences do actually unfurl themselves.
This is something that is aided greatly by Laura Dern at her very strongest as Fox’s avatar, a woman slowly recalling the repressed trauma of her earlier years. Equally impressive though is Debicki as a woman who shifts subtly from surrogate mother to predator, and Ritter, who oozes obsequiousness as the seducer, who has to play the film’s most uncomfortable scenes with the young Jenny (although the production is eager to point out that a body double of a suitable age was used in these moments.)
Fox’s Tale is certainly well told, definitely worth seeing.
The Sundance Festival ’18 London runs from May 31 to June 3 - https://spotlight.picturehouses.com/category/sundance-film-festival/
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