Sundance Film Festival reviews: Laura Dern excellent in deeply unsettling “The Tale”

By Jenniffer Wardell
Not rated
Written and directed by Jennifer Fox
Starring Laura Dern, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn and more
Grade: Three stars

Memory is such a tricky thing.

That’s the most profound and chilling part of “The Tale,” based on the director’s true story. A re-examination of one woman’s first sexual relationship, had far too young and with someone far too old, shows the unreliability of memory and the stories we tell ourselves in order to keep going.

Jennifer (played by Laura Dern) is a successful, confident professor and documentary filmmaker. When her mother finds a story she wrote about her first boyfriend back in 7th grade, however, it opens a spiral of memory that forces her to re-examine her past and the effect it had on the person she is today.

It’s a deeply unsettling movie, anchored wonderfully by Laura Dern. You feel all of her confusion and pain as her memory crumbles around her, and the way Fox constructs the movie gives the same sense of disorientation. You learn not to trust anything, and it makes the dread build even before the truth has entirely finished unfolding. (Also, Jason Ritter would be entirely too believable as a serial killer.)

The biggest flaw in the movie is that it’s far too graphic, dwelling far more in awful moments than was needed for impact. What the movie is saying is profoundly important, but that is absolutely not the part that needed to be dwelt on.

(Photo by Kyle Kaplan | Courtesy of Sundance Institute)


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