The Lie is a movie about divorced couple Jay and Rebecca (played by Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos) and their teenage daughter Kayla (played by Joey King.) On a cold winter’s day, Jay is driving his daughter out of town to take her to dance camp when they happen to pass Kayla’s friend Britney (Devery Jacobs) waiting at a bus stop. Kayla insists on stopping the car to speak with Britney, who as it happens is waiting for a bus to take her to the same camp. Britney accepts an offer to ride with Kayla but shortly afterward insists that Jay pull over because she desperately needs to pee. The two girls disappear into the snow covered woods but don’t return. When Jay goes to investigate he discovers Britney missing and Kayla sitting at a bridge, blankly staring into space. Jay frantically starts looking for Britney, only to have his daughter admit that Britney is gone because Kayla pushed her off the bridge. Realizing that Britney’s body has been carried away by the icy waters below, a panicked Jay takes his daughter back to the car and drives both of them to his ex-wife’s house so the parents can figure out how they want to handle this tragedy.
The Lie is directed by Veena Sud, a veteran of the entertainment industry best known for writing and directing the 2014 series “The Killing”. Sud’s direction has many of the hallmarks of an old fashioned, classic thriller. The movie effectively builds its tension, presenting a situation of otherwise normal, responsible adults torn about what to do when it comes to protecting their daughter. The more they try to cover up, the further the situation spirals out of control and the more they find themselves engaging in behaviors they would otherwise have thought unimaginable. The movie benefits from strong performances from an A-list cast, including genre veteran Cas Anvar as Britney’s father in addition to the actors already mentioned, and smartly focuses on these performances to carry the emotional weight of the film.
Where The Lie falls down most significantly is in the choice of its title. This is a film that tries to throw a twist in at the end, except that the twist is spoiled virtually from the beginning because of the movie’s name. Another problem is that the parents go so far in covering up for their daughter that it strains credulity and eventually ceases to be interesting. When the mother, Rebecca, who works as a lawyer on homicide cases, makes the boneheaded move of calling authorities in to interrogate Britney’s father after he starts asking questions about his missing daughter, it’s hard to think anything other than that she really should have known better. Maybe people will do crazy things to protect their children, but once it goes so far that it’s hard to sympathize with anymore it also becomes hard to stay engaged. While the movie initially builds and maintains tension, there comes a point at which even the relatively modest 90 minute running time begins to feel overly long.
Overall The Lie is not a bad thriller. It presents relatable characters faced with a difficult situation, lets you empathize with their plight, and shows how the choices they make cause things to spiral out of control. It has some strong performances and packs an emotional punch that stays with you after it is over. However in going as far as it goes it overstays its welcome and loses the tension that it initially builds. It also telegraphs its plot twist by putting a spoiler in the title. If viewers have already seen the 2018 film Calibre, a British movie that was picked up by rival streaming service Netflix, then The Lie also suffers from having a similar premise with inferior execution. On the whole, there are some very good things to say about The Lie but for suspense thriller fans there are better choices out there.
Three out of five stars
When their teenaged daughter confesses to impulsively killing her best friend, two desperate parents attempt to cover up the horrific crime, leading them into a complicated web of lies and deception.
Starring: Mireille Enos, Peter Sarsgaard, and Joey King
Written and Directed by: Veena Sud
"The Lie": a tense, engaging thriller let down by its title
The movie effectively builds its tension, presenting a situation of otherwise normal, responsible adults torn about what to do when it comes to protecting their daughter. The more they try to cover up, the further the situation spirals out of control and the more they find themselves engaging in behaviors they would otherwise have thought unimaginable.