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Review: The Good Lie

October 3, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Good Lie Poster

Although being advertised almost like a cross between The Blind Side and Million Dollar Arm, a pair of films that I genuinely liked, The Good Lie in fact couldn’t be more different from those stories about wealthy Americans helping immigrants new to the country.

This is a quieter and more character driven film than the trailers have let on, allowing the central refugees to remain the focus of the story, with the people offering help wisely being kept as supporting characters and never overshadowing their experiences.  After premiering at TIFF, The Good Lie opens in theatres today.

After being orphaned as children during the Sudanese Civil War, adult siblings Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) are taken to America through a Christian outreach program.

The three brothers find themselves in small town Missouri, looking for work under the guidance of social worker Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon).  But they face a serious culture clash, struggling to hold down jobs as they suffer from PTSD and try desperately to reunite with their sister Najah (Sahlima), who has been separated from them through the tricky bureaucracy of the flawed immigration system.

Although this is his first studio film, Quebec director Philippe Falardeau thankfully hasn’t lost the deeply empathetic touch that he honed so perfectly with the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar a few years ago.  He maintains a sometimes painfully realistic tone throughout The Good Lie, especially during the harrowing and expectedly disturbing first act, while also allowing for moments of gentle humour to offset the genuine pathos.  The choice to cast actual refugees adds another layer of realism to the film, and a selfless dramatic twist in the last act is actually quite moving.

There are plenty of memorable moments as they adapt to their new life in America, revealing the sometimes shocking wastefulness of Western culture, and the largely faith based story would make this a good choice for church groups.  With excellent performances from the authentic leads, and some nice supporting work from Reese Witherspoon, The Good Lie is a touching and very well acted film, that works as an undeniably affective human drama.

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