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The Tale 2018

The Tale - Die Erinnerung

The Tale-Die Erinnerung

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About The Tale 💬

  • Based on a true story.

Based on the filmmaker's own story, THE TALE is an investigation into one woman's memory as she is forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.

What if the truth has multiple stories? Can our memories protect us? Would we recognize our younger selves?


The Film

Can our memories mislead us? Does the mind unconsciously reframe the truth to make it palatable?

In THE TALE, Jennifer Fox (Laura Dern) faces a host of life-altering questions after a short story from her middle school days forces her to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.

An accomplished documentarian working in New York, Jennifer is completing her latest project, about the lives of women around the world. She receives a series of phone calls from her mother, Nettie (Ellen Burstyn), who has found a short story Jennifer wrote at the age of 13. In it, she describes various encounters with her riding instructor Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki) and her running coach Bill (Jason Ritter) while away at summer camp. Nettie is unnerved by the implications of her daughter's writing, but Jennifer is nonplussed. She has always looked back with fondness on the time she spent with the two charismatic adults.

Egged on by Nettie and yearning to know more, Jennifer sets out on a journey to find the real people 30 years later, starting with the children, now adults, who also attended the camp back then - and eventually the coaches themselves. But the more she learns, the more her memories shift and the more questions she unearths. As her frustration mounts, she finds herself turning inward to get to the truth, imagining conversations with her 13-year-old-self (Isabel Nélisse) and even Mrs. G and Bill in an effort to understand how and why events occurred so long ago.

THE TALE is the first narrative feature from Jennifer Fox.

Letter From Jennifer

In 1973, when I was thirteen, flat chested, with braces...

and hadn't gotten my period yet I spent the summer and fall at the farm of my riding teacher, Mrs. G. In between an intense regimen of equestrian training, Mrs. G introduced me to her running coach - an acclaimed athlete, named Bill - and I started training with him as well. To my complete delight, I became their favorite student and they often took me with them on private jaunts. Soon, Mrs. G suggested that I spend nights at Bill's when I came to visit her so that Bill could get to know me better. That is how at age thirteen, I became Bill's 'lover'.

By the time I was fourteen, I decided I had to break up the relationship with them. I never saw Mrs. G or Bill again for forty years. It was as if I froze them in time in that moment and they were suspended forever in a black hole. But the story stayed with me as I grew up as this huge question mark: Why me? Why them? Who were they? Who was I?

From the beginning, I sought to put the event into some artistic form: from the first time, I scribbled a thinly veiled fictional short story that I handed in to my eighth grade English class, which I called ''The Tale''; to at midlife, as a veteran filmmaker, writing a script based on my adolescent writings versus my adult memories - in all their contradicting complexity.

The result is THE TALE, a film memoir of how a thirteen-year-old girl chose to forge her own version of events in order to create the identity she wanted to have and the woman she would become.

From the beginning, it was important to me that this film represented an authentic tapestry of my experience. I wanted to give all the parts of the story a voice and particularly my thirteen-year-old self. As we grow up, we so often erase the feelings we had as children, as if they were negligible, but I think that is disingenuous. I wanted to explore that 13-year old me and honor her feelings. But when I returned to her story as an adult, I didn't know who she was anymore. I realized that I was a different person back then, and that if she had met my woman-self she would hate me, as another one of those 'stupid adults' who didn't understand her. But if I met my thirteen-year-old self now, I would have thrown my body in front of her and done anything to stop the decisions she was about to make.

Our perspective and the stories we tell ourselves change all the time and we are taught that one story erases the next in an ever-turning funnel toward this thing called 'the truth'. That is western ideology, I dare say the essence of Freudian concepts. But as I grow older, I realize that the truth has many parallel stories that live like a layer-cake simultaneously in our lives. To really take care of the soul we have to allow all the truth in all its complexity and honor the contradictions.

This is what I tried to do in THE TALE. At the end, I hope that Jenny's feelings and my adult realizations can live side by side. This is no way to sidestep the horror of child sexual abuse that has existed since time immemorial. We have to use all our power to prevent what happened to me from happening to other children. Simultaneously, in order to help survivors heal we have to acknowledge the range and nuances of feelings that occur in this complex process that ensnares children.

Child sexual abuse is one of the most taboo subjects on the planet and It is mystified and left hazy so as not to face the horror. That is why I felt it was important that I not shy away from showing the physical scenes you see in the film. The scenes and dialogue in THE TALE come from my very detailed memory of those events. They are included to show how painful and confusing this event was for me - and the true awfulness of it.

Moreover, I decided to leave the main character Jennifer's name my own in THE TALE while fictionalizing the other's names, because I wanted the viewer to have to wrestle with the reality of the events. I felt strongly that if I took a distance from the truth of the story as most writers do by fictionalizing their names, there would be no one to stand up by the film and answer the nay-sayers and deniers who want to tell us, it can't be like this. By leaving the Jennifer character's name as mine, I am there to tell them, ''no, this really happened. And yes, I did really feel 'love' for these people as they robbed me of my trust and betrayed and hurt me.''

Bottom line, if we don't talk about how complicated this is for the child, and how adept the perpetrator is at ensnaring their heart in a web of complicity, we can never prevent it from happening or help survivors heal. We have to look this in the eye to change the conversation around trauma, protective memory, and abuse.

Jennifer Fox

Filmmaker, THE TALE

Letter From Jennifer's Mother

''THE TALE'' is a story I encouraged my daughter Jenny to tell for many years.

It took her until she was 45 years old to admit that her relationship with the main character was not consensual, but sexual abuse.

I suspected for many years what had happened and when I knew it was true, I was out of my mind with anger and rage. My husband and I had put our faith and trust in two coaches that were collaborators in a terrible affair with our daughter.

I wanted to come forward and throw the perpetrators in jail. I wanted to reveal how a man lauded by society for his good work in the athletic world - including training girls - had abused my daughter. How many young women had he destroyed for his own sick satisfaction?

But, Jennifer would have none of this. To survive, at 13, she had told herself, that he only did it because he loved her. She called it a 'relationship.' So, despite my wishes, she refused to testify against him.

As most mothers do, I had always kept my children's school papers. One of the things I kept was a story she had written as a school assignment. It was, supposedly, a fictional account of a young girl's experience but it was really the story of her abuse. About 10 years ago, I discovered it, and it shocked me to the core. I immediately sent Jennifer the story.

Jennifer had forgotten that she wrote this assignment and she herself was surprised by what she read and how different her memory was of the event from the words on the page. Soon after we sat down and started discussing how she could help other young women by using her artistic talents and years of experience as a successful filmmaker to send a meaningful message.

It was me - her mother - who told her she had to make this film. I hounded her to do it without wasting more time! So finally, she and I embarked on a journey for her to research the real people and fold their stories into a narrative screenplay form. Jennifer and I had many conversations, which also went into the screenplay to create the character based on me - Nettie. Now, Jennifer has woven all this into a brilliant fiction film that gets at the core of how and why sexual abuse occurs - even under the noses of loved ones - in a story and way that has never been seen before.

As Jennifer and I were making this film, some people heard about it and came up to me privately - people who called themselves my 'friends' - and said how can you let your daughter tell this story publicly and put shame on you and your family? Frankly, this made me so sad. It is time to stop hiding this issue as it used to be when I grew up. So many families have stories of sexual abuse and trauma in their histories going back generations. THE TALE is a rare opportunity to use the power of film combined with the insight of a true account, to reach millions and millions of viewers to understand how insidious and complex this issue is finally.

I am proud of my daughter for doing this. And though everyone who knows me, knows I am a very private person, I am standing up with her behind this film and want to do so publicly. I want to take abuse out of the proverbial, 'family closet' and talk openly. Because honestly can enough ever be said? If this movie helps others come forward and a new understanding arises to prevent child sexual abuse happening, it is worth everything to me.

Geraldine Dietz Fox

Source: Official Website of The Tale Movie

The Tale Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Jennifer Fox

Writing Credits

Jennifer Fox


Laura Dern

Isabelle Nélisse

Jessica Sarah Flaum

Ellen Burstyn

Laura Allen


Jason Ritter

John Heard

Frances Conroy

Elizabeth Debicki

Matthew Rauch

Grant James

Jodi Long

Shay Lee Abeson

Tina Parker

Isabella Amara

Gretchen Koerner

Madison David

Aaron Williamson

Noah Lomax

Daniel Berson

Chelsea Alden

Jaqueline Fleming

Music by

Ariel Marx

Cinematography by

Denis Lenoir

Ivan Strasburg

Category: Golden Globes, Golden Globe Nominee

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Countries: United States, Germany

The Tale Official Trailer

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