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#TIFF19 Review: White Lie (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 5, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest and best film from young Canadian filmmakers Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, White Lie opens with its main character, a young woman named Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl), shaving her head with a razor. Katie doesn’t have cancer, but she wants everyone, including her girlfriend Jennifer (Amber Anderson), to think that she does. It’s a deranged lie that she tells to benefit from both public sympathy and fundraising dollars, with a crowdfunding campaign set up to fund a trip to Seattle for experimental treatment, and a team of well-meaning students at her university who are more than happy to collect donations and organize charity events to help pay her supposed medical bills.

Katie starves herself to appear rakishly thin, and even buys bottles of pills with her name on them from a local dealer (Connor Jessup) in order to back up her fabricated sickness, but her lie starts to become too much for her to control when she tries to purchase forged health records from a young medical student (Thomas Olajide). Katie is clearly sick, but not in the way that she claims to be. Her constant need for sympathy and attention comes from experiencing family trauma as a teenager, but the way she goes about continuing her lie, to the point of defrauding those closest to her, borders on sociopathic. 

One of the most interesting things about White Lie is that Katie is allowed to be a completely unlikeable and unsympathetic character, and Rohl’s excellent, fiercely dedicated performance is a big part of why the film works so well. Complimented by Christopher Lew’s appropriately gritty cinematography, White Lie is a dark and moody Canadian drama that is engaging and even suspenseful to watch as we wait for the truth to finally explode.

Kacey Rohl in White Lie

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 7th – 3:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Friday, September 13th – 6:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

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