Can our memories mislead us? Does the mind unconsciously reframe the truth to make it palatable? 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.
An unforgettable meditation on elusive nature of memory, The Tale is the first narrative feature from Sundance Grand Prize Winner and Emmy nominated writer-director Jennifer Fox, whose documentary films have earned international acclaim for their groundbreaking artistry and unflinching honesty. Based on Fox’s own life story, The Tale sees the filmmaker bravely pushing forward the boundaries of conventional storytelling, creating a dialogue between past and present to illustrate the interplay between memory and trauma.
The Tale stars Laura Dern (Oscar nominee for Wild and Rambling Rose; Emmy winner for HBO’s Big Little Lies; Emmy® nominee for HBO’s Enlightened, Recount and Afterburn), Isabelle Nélisse (Mama), Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager), Jason Ritter (Kevin (Probably) Saves the World), Frances Conroy (Emmy nominee for HBO’s Six Feet Under) and John Heard (Emmy nominee for HBO’s The Sopranos), with Common (Oscar winner for Selma) and Ellen Burstyn (Academy Award winner for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore).
The film is produced by Jennifer Fox, Oren Moverman, Laura Rister, Mynette Louie, Simone Pero, Lawrence Inglee, Sol Bondy, Regina K. Scully, Lynda Weinman and Reka Posta. Julie Parker Benello, Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, Wendy Ettinger, Abigail E. Disney, Robert & Penny Fox, Jayme Lemons, Amy Rodrigue, Ali Jazayeri, Jason Van Eman, David Van Eman, Ross Marroso and Ben McConley are executive producers.