Tell Me a Riddle
Tell Me a Riddle is a 1980 American drama film directed by Lee Grant. The screenplay by Joyce Eliason and Alev Lytle is based on Tillie Olsen's collection of four short stories of the same name which won the 1961 O. Henry Award. This is Grant's first film as director. Two more such films would follow: Down and Out in America and Staying Together.
When estranged elderly couple Eva and David learn she is dying, they decide to take one last trip together. In San Francisco, Eva draws inspiration from their exuberant granddaughter Jeannie, who lives life to the fullest despite any stumbling blocks it may toss in her path. To her she reveals the secrets of her soul and shares with her scrapbook clippings and photos of the literary and philosophical greats - Walt Whitman and Émile Zola among them - who have sustained her in her bleakest moments and offered her promise of a better life. As Eva comes to terms with her past, she and David manage to recapture the love they felt for each other early in their marriage.
- Melvyn Douglas ..... David
- Lila Kedrova ..... Eva
- Brooke Adams ..... Jeannie
- Peter Coyote ..... Young D
- Nora Heflin ..... Young Eva
- Zalman King ..... Paul
Principal production credits
- Executive Producer ..... Michael Rosenberg
- Original Music ..... Shalom Sherman, Sheldon Shkolnik
- Cinematography ..... Fred Murphy
- Production Design ..... Patrizia von Brandenstein
In her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film "a slow, restrained, dignified effort . . . so straightforward and so simple that it doesn't prompt anything more elaborate than subjective reactions. If you bring the right sad baggage to it, you may be deeply moved; if you resent being manipulated, you may be moved in quite another direction. Throughout the film, plain competence and good intentions are on display, and at least in this case, they aren't qualities that make for strong responses. This may be a movie to remind you of something. But I don't think it's one to touch you on its own."