Review: 'The Lie' unravels engaging, slightly impassive, moral dillema
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
The age old question of: “How far are you willing to go to protect your daughter?” is front and center in “The Lie” part of the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series on Amazon Prime Video. An icy drama that crackles and pops with an engaging mystery as Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos play a separated couple forced to face the bitter truth when their teenage daughter (Joey King) confesses to an unthinkable crime.
The Blumhouse model is well suited for this claustrophobic thriller, considering the majority of “The Lie” takes place indoors under lock and key, with the occasional detour into the outside world. Written and directed by Veena Sud - who adapted the film from the German flick “Wir Monster” - “The Lie” offers an intriguing and tightly assembled package about the tribulations of parenthood.
For corporate lawyer Rebecca (Enos) and professional rock musician Jay (Sarsgaard), their marriage has been ended for quite some time. Seemingly over the latter’s infidelity with younger women and now their only child, 15-year-old Kayla (King) resides mostly with her mom. At the start of the film, Jay has promised to drive Kayla to a weekend ballet retreat and on the way there through the cold and icy landscape, Kayla spots long time bud Brittany (Devery Jacobs) waiting at an isolated bus stop. They decide to give her a lift and Brittany immediately starts flirting with her dad, which leads to a bickering fight all too common among teenage girls.
After taking a brief pitstop to pee, and when they’re gone too long, Jay goes searching, only to find Kayla sitting alone on a bridge, shaking. We’re told that in a brief moment of anger that Kayla pushed Brittany, and judging by the height of the ledge, one can assume she either broke her neck or drowned. Believing this could mark the end of his daughter's life, Jay quickly rushes home, and the two concoct a story about how they never stopped to pick up Brittany, fearing the consequences would not only affect Kayla, but himself too.
Rebecca, being the intuitive mother duckling she is, quickly assesses that something is off and is let in on the secret. Her decision to go along with the cover-up says all you need to know about her character, signaling she’s not that far removed from Jay after all. It’s not until Brittany’s dad (Cas Anvar) comes poking around looking for his missing kid that Jay and Rebecca go to crazy lengths to take the heat off themselves and their daughter. A mystery that keeps unraveling until a final Hitchockian twist hits you square in the gut.
Sarsgaard, Enos, and King deserve plenty of credit for helping create the perfect view of an isolated family touched by tragedy. Emotions run rampant, insults are thrown, and cruel bouts of irony come to fruition throughout the film’s tight 95 minutes. Despite its contrived narrative plot holes, at the end of day this is a drama about mending broken hearts, piecing together fractured relationships and practicing forgiveness.
Still, Sud wastes no time ramping up stakes and the tension, slowing peeling back the layers of privileged white folks succumbing to their own demise. In another decade, “The Lie” would be the perfect late 90s’ thriller that could churn out a decent chunk of change at the box office and be elevated by the communal theatrical experience. In 2020, no such thing exists, but watching fictional characters make horrible decisions somehow feels relaxing.
THE LIE is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.