Classic Movie Review: The Good Lie (2014)

Posted: June 9, 2015 in Drama
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THE GOOD LIE

Bothers Mamere (Peterdeng Mongok, Arnold Oceng) Jeremiah  (Thon Kueth, Gar Duany) Paul (Deng Ajuet, Emmanuel Jal) and sister Abital (Keji Jale, Kueth Weil) walk over 700 miles to a refugee camp in Kenya to escape a civil war in South Sudan. They lose one brother, Daniel (Kon Akoue Aouk) to disease after reaching the camp, and another brother, Theo (Okwar Jale) is shot on the way to the camp.  The family stays in the camp for 13 years, and then qualifies to fly to the U.S.  More heartache awaits the brothers at airport as they are told they are going to Kansas City, while sister Abital goes to Boston to live with a sponsor family.

A young woman named Carrie (Reese Witherspoon) is tasked with getting the brothers jobs, and she succeeds.  Jeremiah gets a job at a supermarket, Paul gets a job in a factory, and Mamere goes back to school.  Mamere is haunted by the death of Theo, and Paul blames Mamere  for the shooting that cost Theo his life and refuses to follow his leadership.  Then, out of the blue, a rumor comes to Mamere’s attention that Theo might be alive, does Mamere try to find Theo?  Do the brothers find their sister Abital? Do Mamere and Paul reconcile their strained relationship?

This is an emotionally charged film about refugees willing to risk their lives to simply live a peaceful life.  The story is well told, and surprisingly comedic and free of treacle. The writers wisely focus on four members of one family from Sudan, and that personalizes the civil war in Sudan, and the refugee crisis that followed.  The ending is even better than I expected and the whole movie is thought provoking and sad at the same time.

The acting is incredible, especially by the African actors.  3 of the 4 lead actors are Sudanese, so the movie gets extra credit for authenticity.  They all handled the humorous and serious scenes with equal skill. Gar Duany really stands out as Jeremiah but all three male leads, and the female lead is appealing. Reese   Witherspoon essentially plays the same pushy character she played in Legally Blonde, but it works here, and her story is not the emotional center of the movie.

The direction is good.  After a slow pace during the first half hour,  the pace really picks up when the Sudanese come to America.  The director is French Canadian, and gets really good performances from all the actors, especially the African actors, kids and adults alike, it’s often hard to get good performances from children.

The Good Lie:  Truth Telling in movie form.

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