When a film that has already made it to Sundance then becomes a massive, unexpected success during the festival itself, it is bound to score some perks. The Tale, a deeply personal autobiographical film directed, written, and produced by Jennifer Fox, is no exception. This film traces the unraveling of a repressed, traumatic event during Fox’s childhood, when her coach seduced and raped her at 11 years old. The Tale is structured around a series of diary entries that Fox’s mother accidentally finds and expresses the complex, even taboo emotions that a sexually abused girl may feel, ranging from fear to pleasure to normalization of the sexual encounter. Laura Dern, playing Fox, gives a heartbreaking, inspiring performance. At Sundance, Fox explained during a Q&A session that she did not just want to illustrate traumatic experiences as cruel and evil – she wanted to also expose the more unspoken feelings about rape as well as show how empowering the event was to her long-term growth.
At the end of January, HBO promptly made an offer to Fox and The Tale was sold to the company. Variety speculates that the film was particularly appealing to HBO because the sensitive topic seemed more fit for at-home watching rather than for a collective theatre experience: “There’s a case to be made that The Tale actually belongs on the small screen.” Then, in mid-February, one of the biggest Hollywood agencies, William Morris Agency, signed to rep Fox in her future endeavors. It is touching to see Fox’s own childhood traumas shown on the screen in such a raw, open manner, then to see viewers and companies truly appreciate the complexity of this openness. Here’s to a magnificent, beautiful, harrowing film that is having its deserved spot in the limelight.
For a short video featuring what Fox has to say about the power of her film, watch below.