Review: The Good Lie
When a young college student’s mother suddenly dies in a car accident, he is shown a video made when he was born. In it, his mother discloses that she was raped, and he is the offspring of her and her assailant. Filled with uncontrolled emotion, he sets out to track down his real father, a journey that puts him through an internal struggle and potential danger.
Who’s in It?
Thomas Dekker stars as the conflicted, confused protagonist Cullen Francis. Veteran Canadian actor Matt Craven plays Richard Francis, Cullen’s stepfather.
It’s not the story that matters as much as how you tell it. A cleverly-crafted script and smart direction, both by Canadian Shawn Linden, propel the captivating and intimate journey of a suddenly tortured young man.
Thomas Dekker assumes the role of Cullen Francis, a college student who learns of two pieces of heartbreaking news in successive fashion. His mother is killed in a car accident – the last exchange between the two is a fight – and it is later revealed to Cullen born, that his mother was raped, the attacker sent to prison, and Cullen is their child.
Upon this stunning disclosure, he sets off immediately to find his biological father, not knowing where the journey will take him, or what he will do when he gets to the ending.
This narrative is paralleled by a different one completely, a story about stories that offers a decidedly absurd contrast. Cullen and a group of his male companions are off on a camping trip, and as he sits contemplative off to the side, each braggart tells a tale taller and more outrageous than the last. It’s a stunning and sudden antithesis to the main story, at least initially, for Cullen is the last to share.
While Cullen sets off on a trek across a lonely night, with his earnest stepfather following though seemingly hours behind, prior to each revelation Linden returns us to the campfire, where some bloody, gross, sophomoric, and very-well executed yarns are spun. It’s a diversion, and meant to ground, and in all is masterful storytelling.
While Linden is juggling these storylines, Dekker is balancing out an internal polarization. Going to mental places that are hard to imagine, he is a compelling, conflicted screen presence, one part average, well-off youth, and another part sinister, unknown evil. He clearly cares about his mother and stepfather, but argues with them as kids are wont to do. He ignores the calls of his father because he doesn’t have any answers. He is headstrong and scared, as if the realization of having a horrible criminal of a father has awakened something evil from within, or at least made him think that it could exist.
Each campfire story escalates to more ridiculous heights, but Linden’s main story is rightly restrained and realistic, building in tension but always in control. Dekker too is in control, knowing when to hold back and when to emote. Unfortunately for our main character, Cullen doesn’t know exactly what he wants, or what is going to happen.
Should You See It?
Yes. It’s not just a great Canadian film, but a great film in any regard.
“You have a camp story ready?” And so it begins.