The Good Lie

The Good Lie

The Good Lie is an earnest attempt to try and balance responsible filmmaking in an effort to raise awareness while still being entertaining enough to appeal to those wanting to just ‘go to the movies’. Though it doesn’t always work, director Philippe Falardeau tells a simple story with little fuss or manipulation.

The story centers around 3 Sudanese immigrants who come to the U.S. and are separated from their sister, after together having survived the ordeal of the Sudanese civil war that took place during the 80’s. We learn that as children these young survivors of the war were known as the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ and the films harrowing (and meatier) first act throws us unprepared into the chaos of what they had to endure, from a journey on foot of many hundred miles through the scorching desert heat to food and water deprivation, all while trying to avoid being found by rebel soldiers. In these more somber moments, the film has a documentary like clarity and persistence in allowing us to discover what the survivors of the war had to withstand.

Many years later, when the 3 boys are young men, they are selected at random along with their sister from a large number of other refugees at a camp in neighboring Kenya to go to the US as immigrants. Here Carrie Davis, played with irritable unlikeability by Reese Witherspoon, who is assigned to help them find jobs and quickly become responsible citizens, meets them. At this point, the film displays a slight shift in tone, trying to milk the fish out of water scenario for humour and laughs, some of which works, but most of which doesn’t. The problem isn’t that the funny moments aren’t funny, they sometimes are, especially when we witness genuine culture shock. It’s just that the film, which is essentially a serious drama most of the time, struggles with how to present the humour – neither laugh out loud nor completely flat, ending up somewhere in-between.

Witherspoon’s character being present doesn’t help matters considerably. While posters and trailers have her front and centre, she is there only when required and never very good at being onscreen. Trying her best to look ragged, fiesty and unstylish (ala Julia Roberts from Erin Brockovich) her portrayal of Carrie makes her seem agitated with the situation. Then she decides to help them in a big way, but the film never makes it clear why she might resort to such manner of altruism. Still the film eventually wins you over because it never resorts to the situation having been created due a sense of serving the proverbial white man’s burden as other films may condescendingly do. In it’s simplicity and honesty Lie ends up being a touching, humane and hopeful look at such a precarious situation.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and