According to the credits, “Tennis,” screening at 5 p.m. today, is based on a true story.
They don’t say it’s based on an incident that happened to writer-director Alastair Gourlay’s mother.
“Tennis” is about a woman who encounters a man burglarizing her home. The burglar and woman begin talking and discover they’re both trapped by their life choices. The burglar, Jerry, is an educated man who feels “formless.” Drugs, he says, are his way out of the shadows. The victim, Mary, says she’s trapped in an unsatisfying marriage. But she chooses to live with her choice.
Mary learns of the burglary in progress when a tennis ball mysteriously rolls into her kitchen. Tennis then becomes a metaphor for the back-and-forth volleys of their dialogue.
In reality, Gourlay’s parents have been happily married for 40 years. He’s taken some creative license with his family’s tale, and that’s what makes this back story so interesting.
Gourlay, 33, didn’t hear about the burglary in his Australian childhood home until 15 years after the fact. By then, he had film aspirations and wanted to turn it into a movie. He started writing it in 2004.
Gourlay then became involved in film financing, which led to him producing the 2011 feature film, “The Wicker Tree,” so he placed an ad on Mandy.com to find a co-writer for “Tennis.” Emilio Iasiello responded and Gourlay liked the way he wrote. So they volleyed back and forth by email, sending notes and tweaking the dialogue until this warm, intelligent, suspenseful film took form.
Gourlay and Iasiello never met. But the film world premieres today and then Gourlay will take it on the film festival circuit. After that, he and the co-writer he’s never met plan to write another movie.