wed 24/07/2024

The Lie review - icily intriguing until it isn't | reviews, news & interviews

The Lie review - icily intriguing until it isn't

The Lie review - icily intriguing until it isn't

Largely compelling study of a family in moral freefall

Chilly scenes of winter: Peter Sarsgaard and Joey King in 'The Lie'

Moral reckonings don't come much more serious than the one that propels The Lie, in which a family must deal with a murder perpetrated by their daughter. Will Jay (a weary-looking Peter Sarsgaard) and Rebecca (the wonderful Mireille Enos) hand 15-year-old Kayla (Joey King) over to the authorities?

Not bloody likely, and their decision leads all three down an abyss which makes for grimly compelling watching, at least until a twist ending that threatens to undo what has come before.

Until that time, writer-director Veena Sud's Canadian-shot film, first seen on the festival circuit in 2018, layers the scenario nicely. Jay is driving Kayla to a ballet retreat one wintry day when they stop to give a lift to Kayla's friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs), who happens to be waiting at a bus stop. Barely has their new passenger got in the car before she is acting gently flirtatious, which surely catches the eye of the divorced Jay, whose roving eye is revealed later on to evince a preference for younger women.Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard in 'The Lie'But in a moment that even she can't quite explain, the sullen Kayla uses the opportunity afforded by a rest stop to push Brittany into some icy water below, sealing her fate. Back home, the incident acts like a bomb going off under Rebecca, a lawyer, who doesn't want her daughter charged with second-degree murder. "We're asking [Kayla] to lie for the rest of her life," says Rebecca, fully aware that the gathering deception will ensnare her and Jay as well.

That, in turn, is compounded by the insistent intrusion into their lives of Brittany's father (Cas Anvar), a Pakistani who doesn't take kindly to the patronising tone of two local policemen who come knocking at his door wondering whether he might be guilty of abuse. Factor in a policewoman (Patti Kim) who was once a colleague and friend of Rebecca's and you've got a skilful weave of complications at odds with the blissful, halcyon life that Kayla knew as a child, footage of which is seen at the film's start.

Part of a planned sequence of eight horror films from Jason Blum's self-named Blumhouse Productions in conjunction with Amazon, The Lie deserves credit, to my mind anyway, for one of the very qualities that has damned it elsewhere. No attempt is made to render this family sympathetic or inviting in any way; if anything, one feels after a while that Kayla's impetuous behaviour is merely an extreme example of a misbehaviour amongst this household that has already risked hollowing out Rebecca, and Enos, bearing a startling (pictured above with Sarsgaard) resemblance to a mid-career Faye Dunaway, gives the performance of the film as a woman hanging on for psychic survival amidst a landscape defined by distrust. 

King, too, never sugarcoats the whiny reality of a defensive, self-harming teenager who incurs genuine wrath and fury from a father battling demons of his own: Sarsgaard, tellingly, looks defeated before anything has even happened. It's a shame, therefore, that the conclusion tilts toward the risible in its attempt, presumably, to spring an 11th-hour surprise. Up until that point, one can enjoy the tightening noose of a movie whose key prop would seem to be Kayla's inhaler as The Lie does what it can to leave filmgoers gasping for breath.

No attempt is made to render this family sympathetic or inviting in any way


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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