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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 15, 2021



‘THE TALE’ is an autobiographical drama written and directed by documentarist Jennifer Fox based on her own experience as a child sexually abused when she was 13. 

She buried the memory deep in her mind but it resurfaces and the film shows us how she is able to come to terms with it in her late 40s.

The movie starts with Jennifer (as played by Laura Dern) already 48 years old and teaches filmmaking. 

She gets a call from her mother (Ellen Burstyn) who gets worried after reading a story she wrote when she was 13. It’s about her secret relationship with a much older lover. 

In flashbacks, we see her in that summer when as a 13-year old girl, Jenny, she undergoes to train on horseback riding with a stunningly gorgeous teacher, Mrs. G (Elizabeth Debicki), with two other girls. 

The girls also have a running coach, Bill Allen (Jason Ritter), who is the secret lover of Mrs G who seems to be estranged from her husband.

After the summer training, Jenny (Isabelle Nelisse), still trains with Mrs. G and Bill on weekends. 

In their talks, it’s obvious Bill is brainwashing her about the nature of their relationship until the impressionable girl willingly goes to bed with him. 

At that time, she didn’t feel that he is sexually abusing her as she feels a certain special connection with him and also with Mrs.G. 

But her current live in boyfriend (Common), after reading the letters written to her by Bill, tells her she has been raped but she insists she is not a victim. 

It seems the memory of that episode in her past has been blocked in her mind, but her own mother says that she exhibited the signs of someone who  was sexually abused as she became very promiscuous as a young adult, going to bed with lots of married men. 

She goes to Mrs. G (now an old woman played by Frances Conroy) to confront her about her role in her abuse, but Mrs. G won’t divulge to her anything. 

It was one of the girls she was training with then who confirmed to her that Mrs. G acts as some sort of a pimp who arranges for the girls to be victimized by Bill. 

She then tried her best to talk to Bill himself but she avoids him so she goes to a social gathering where Bill is being honored where she finally gets to confront him.

This movie is actually hard to watch, specially the scenes where the sexual abuse is shown. 

But the process of recalling a traumatic event and recapturing that painful moment of being abused in Jennifer’s painful search for the truth, amidst her own defense mechanisms, is vividly delineated in the film. 

As she rewinds her memories, the director uses the technique of making the 13-year old Jenny talk with her present 48-year old self. As the movie progresses, new details of her horrible experience as a gullible teener in the hands of people she trusted come into the fore. 

The picture that used to be blurred and out of focus now starts to clear up for her to finally accept the truth of what happened to her.  

The film is told from the point of view of the person who finally figured it out and it’s quite compelling as trauma from sexual abuse is not a simple thing. 

Apparently, the film is also cathartic for the filmmaker as she had to go through filtering through her own memories to find out the answers to the questions that her younger self was too innocent to ask at the time the abuse was happening. 

For her then, she was in a relationship with Bill and it never dawned on her that what he’s doing to her as a minor is actually statutory rape. 

She didn’t even notice that Bill, a bonafide pedophile, is poisoning her mind by telling her she’s a special girl making brave choices. 

He even ruins the image of her parents in her mind by telling her: “Your parents are afraid of you becoming free.” But he is so duplicitous that he even hands gifts to her parents when he fetches her at their home to spend the weekend with him. 

The actual bedscenes between her and Bill really gave us the creeps and we found it so harrowing to watch. 

Laura Dern as the older Jenny delivers a solid portrayal of a woman whose psychological trauma runs so deep as she is even in complete denial. But as each memory of her being abused by Bill returns back, she registers confusion and disgust for being so blind all these years. 

The conclusion of the film shows her talking to the 13-year old Jenny, also played with much sensitivity by Isabelle Nelisse. The little girl is actually gone and she has now found the truth she is seeking in her memory, but will she now be at peace with her confirmation? 

Obviously, no, as it has scarred her for life. She dislikes getting married and she never had kids of her own. It manifests even in her class when she forces a student to narrate how she lost her virginity. 

Victims of sexual abuse should watch this film as it would help them come to terms with any evil experiences that have happened in their own past as exploited kids.