Overall, The Lie is a solid thriller that could have been more if it stuck its landing. The pacing is strong and the performances by Enos, King, and Sarsgaard carry the tension of the film really well. It is unfortunate that The Lie’s vagueness in respect to character motivations and a lackluster presentation of its ending ultimately holds the film back.
Premise: A father and daughter are on their way to dance camp when they spot the girl’s best friend on the side of the road. When they stop to offer the friend a ride, their good intentions soon result in terrible consequences.
Welcome to the Blumhouse. Based on a 2015 German film, Canadian thriller The Lie begins with Kayla (Joey King) killing her best friend Britney en route to a ballet retreat. Kayla’s father Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) decides to help cover up the crime and soon thereafter Kayla’s mother (and Jay’s ex-wife) Rebecca (Mireille Enos) is brought into the fold. Together the estranged family must protect Kayla from the authorities and Britney’s father (Cas Anvar), whose mounting frustration with the lack of answers as to the whereabouts of Britney becomes more and more threatening.
The Lie is a solid enough thriller with some blemishes that run throughout it. It carries a few too many missed opportunities for psychological thrills and keeps some things too vague in service of a later plot reveal that doesn’t quite pay off the ambiguity of some character motivations established early on. However, the performances by the three leads sell the premise well and the ever escalating drama benefits from some particularly tight pacing despite its narrative flaws.
There’s some lip service paid to Joey’s nonchalance after she “accidentally” kills Britney. Her parents express some concern about how unaffected she seems about the whole thing. It’s an element of the story that could have led Jay and Rebecca down a relatively darker psychological path, raising questions about if they’ve raised a monster. But this is largely left unexplored save for an outburst by Kayla in which she expresses why what’s happened has happened. Credit to Joey King for delivering a strong emotional performance in this particular moment. Unfortunately, The Lie‘s choice not to further explore this narrative tract is ultimately a let down.
Instead of exploring the psychological implications of a potentially troubled youth, The Lie explores Kayla’s parents’ willingness to dig themselves deeper into a hole in order to protect her. The actions of Rebecca and Jay are the focal point of the film and are by far its biggest strength. The pair toe a morally ambiguous line as they find themselves making concession after concession for their conscience in an attempt to protect Kayla. As the moral ambiguity evolves into more morally indefensible actions, the noose tightens more and more.
While the bleak tone of The Lie carries a cold chill throughout it, the goodwill built by its pacing leads to a largely unsatisfying conclusion. While the film largely presents itself as a moody and grounded look at parents willing to do anything to protect their child, the ending takes that grounded approach and flips it on its head. On paper, it’s a respectable conclusion to the film. However, in practice, it lessens some of the more nuanced character beats that preceded it and ends up bringing The Lie into the realm of more standard thriller fare.
The ending isn’t the end all be all of The Lie and I wouldn’t dare dream of trashing a film based on its ending alone. Overall, The Lie is a solid thriller that could have been more if it stuck its landing. The pacing is strong and the performances by Enos, King, and Sarsgaard carry the tension of the film really well. It is unfortunate that The Lie‘s vagueness in respect to character motivations and a lackluster presentation of its ending ultimately holds the film back.
The Lie is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive Viewer, Anthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll.