Adventures in Streaming: Tale of Tales

* reviews of things i found on (mostly) netflix *
* now with spoilers *

Tale of Tales is an anthology-esque set of folktales with a solid set of overlap to connect them to one another. The tales are likely known, at least in part, to many viewers, since they are in fact based in folklore.

The film is visually really appealing, and the acting is excellent. Even the lowest-level characters are presented in a realistic and fleshed-out manner; everyone seems like a real person, motivated by real things that may or may not be “good”, and behaving in ways that make sense even if within strange situations. The set-ups for each “tale” are compelling, causing me to stick with them to the end just to see what happens.

That said, I really had to convince myself to “stick with them”, because for the most part, the tales end in a sort of dispirited fashion, wrapping up each segment of the story not so much in a bow as much as with a slow slog to its destination. The outcome of some of the tales relies on viewers’ prior knowledge to really understand the emotional significance of the characters’ decisions, and often the endings – or overlaps – of the stories are much more lackluster than the fairly entertaining or intriguing beginnings. For things to seem weird is not necessarily a deal-breaker, especially with folktales, but for the actual compilation of the tales to seem weird and disjointed is pretty disappointing.

The endings aren’t always complete, either – as though they’re the prelude to some longer or more in-depth work that doesn’t seem to have ever materialized. I’m all for letting the audience use its imagination, but I don’t think I should have to use my imagination to fill in plot points.

It’s especially disappointing because of the good acting and characterizations, and the exciting imagery and themes of the beginnings of the segments. Some of the overlaps transcend different time periods, which is conveyed skillfully so the viewer is never confused … yet the actions and outcomes themselves don’t seem necessarily to connect to the events that allegedly caused them. How can stories be so well-presented in one way and then so poorly-cobbled together in another?

Overall, Tale of Tales wasn’t a waste of time, and the tone is consistent throughout. Exposure to the folktales – and to the kind of not-quite-reality quality that is so common in folktales – are valuable and entertaining, no matter how the endings of the segments are perceived; some of the tales are quite thought-provoking, and there’s some well-built tension in a lot of places. Basically, it just kind of loses cohesion by the end, and ultimately feels a little boring.

5 out of 10