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The Lie: How far would you go to protect your family?

The Lie, Veena Sud’s second feature-length outing, boasts strong performances, but also an unsatisfying conclusion.

I don’t wish to sound like a braggart, but I often think of how lucky I am to have grown up in a stable and supportive household. My parents were always there for me, giving me guidance as I needed it, as well as boundaries and limits when they were necessary. After watching The Lie, I could not help but to wonder “how far would this support and stability extend? What would I have to do for all of that to diminish?”

The Lie follows divorced parents Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) and Rebecca (Mireille Enos), and their teenaged daughter Kayla (Joey King). After Kayla admits to killing her friend, Britney (Devery Jacobs), the three of them decide to cover it up, and keep the truth a secret between just themselves. Their resolve is challenged, however, when police and Britney’s father (Cas Anvar) come searching for the missing girl.

The film’s narrative was a bold choice: we’re all familiar with the movie where a father’s daughter goes missing and he does whatever he can to get her back. It’s rare to see this sort of narrative told from the perspective of the people responsible for the daughter’s disappearance. It’s an original take on the formula, and by and large, Veena Sud executes it quite well. There’s still the slow building tension and suspense you’d expect from a small-cast thriller, but the unique lens through which the story is told leaves plenty of room for moral ambiguity.

loud and clear reviews The Lie Welcome to the Blumhouse
Peter Sarsgaard as Jay and Joey King as Kayla in THE LIE (Jasper Savage / Amazon Studios)

The Lie’s greatest strength lies in its cast. The main cast is seven characters, with the three main protagonists taking the lion’s share of screen time. Because of the small scale production and intimate nature of the film, its success relies heavily on the actors delivering nothing short of excellent performances

Considering how young she is, I was initially going to refer to twenty-one-year-old Joey King as a “newcomer.” Then I went onto her IMDB and discovered that, as of this writing, she has an impressive sixty-five credits to her name. That substantial back catalogue of experience shines through in her portrayal of Kayla: the young actress gives a standout performance as a young person burdened by secrets, but trying for a semblance of normalcy. Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos also give commanding performances as a pair of estranged parents trying to keep their daughter safe, while also wrestling with some unresolved feelings towards each other.

The craft and actual filmmaking of The Lie are… fine. I mean, there was nothing in it that I would call “bad,” but there was nothing that blew me away. The compositions of the shots were adequate, the cinematography was effective without being flashy or superfluous. It was well-lit and I didn’t notice any mistakes in the sound design or editing. Everything was perfectly serviceable, but there were no cool shots, sound stings, or musical motifs that stuck with me after the credits rolled. I think that’s probably the best word to describe Th Lie’s technical aspects: “serviceable.” Nothing exceptional, but nothing off putting or distracting.

Where The Lie falls flat is its twist ending. As with most narrative cinema, a suspension of disbelief is required to get invested in the film. Throughout, the plot mostly does a good job of working within the parameters it sets for itself, leading to some effective and tense plot points, especially in interactions with Britney’s father. Then the ending comes, and that suspension of disbelief gets shattered. I’m not going to give it away, but The Lie doesn’t really allude to it at all. There’s an explanation for everything in the final scene, but it definitely feels like the characters are completing some mental gymnastics in an attempt to justify the whole plot. The lack of foreshadowing and flimsy justification make for a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise solid movie. 

The Lie probably isn’t going to be a top contender once awards season rolls around, but I think it’s worth checking out. If you’re not a fan of thrillers, this probably won’t do anything to change your opinion, but fans of the genre will probably get something out of it. Again, the acting alone merits a recommendation from me. Is it a perfect movie? No, and I stand by my dissatisfaction in the film’s ending. But if you have a Prime Video account and ninety minutes to kill, I can think of worse things to watch than Veena Sud’s most recent offering.

The Lie and Black Box, both part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse horror anthology series, were released on Amazon Prime Video (US) on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

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