Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

The Good Lie: A solid film commits its very own sins of omission

In The Good Lie, an angry 21-year-old sets off on an impetuous road odyssey to find the jailed rapist who is his biological father.

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
The Good Lie
Written by
Shawn Linden
Directed by
Shawn Linden
Starring
Thomas Dekker and Matt Craven
Genre
Drama
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2013

It won't be giving the game away to disclose the good lie at the heart of writer/director Shawn Linden's indie thriller, The Good Lie.

Cullen Francis (Thomas Dekker) dashes off to school one morning muttering a dismissive "Whatever" at his caring mother. Too soon, she is dead, killed in a senseless auto accident.

Some months later, the young man makes a discovery – an old videotape, recorded when he was an infant, in which his mother discloses that he is not who he thinks he is. He learns he is the product of a brutal assault and rape that his mother barely survived, and about which Cullen was never told.

Story continues below advertisement

Stunned and angry at the lies he has heard for 21 years,the young man sets off on an impetuous road odyssey to find the jailed rapist who is his biological father. In his quest, he is anxiously tracked by the man who has been playing that nurturing role, Richard Francis (Matt Craven).

An interesting premise and, supported by Dekker, a young actor with enormous screen presence, a well-acted film that is almost always engaging.

But Linden's feature comes wrapped with a major distortion – and one important sin of omission of its own.

The distortion is an elaborate but ultimately awkward framing device: a summer camping trip taken by Cullen and four male friends to a remote lakefront site. There, in the age-old tradition, they attempt to outdo each other with grisly campfire tales of horror.

The film thus bounces annoyingly back and forth between the meat – Cullen's quest to find the source of his paternity, with dad Richard in hot pursuit – and the tepid appetizers: increasingly lurid campfire tales. Showing instead of telling, Linden has filmed these stories separately, but that becomes yet another distraction.

There's method to all of this apparent plot madness, which I won't divulge. But while the payoff is clever, it comes with too high a cost: the narrative drag it exerts on the larger story. That yarn has its own metronomic quirks. The action lurches between Cullen's encounters with people who might be able to help him find his biological father; and Richard's own meetings with the same people, as he searches for his son.

The film's sin of omission is more serious, a dramatic opportunity that could have delivered a genuine climax and huge emotional dividends. Given the rethinks to which virtually all movie scripts are subjected, this plot point must have been considered – a penultimate or final convergence of son and both fathers. Without it, the viewer may feel, as I did, that Linden has chosen the safer, neater route to resolution.

Story continues below advertisement

Still, there is a lot of fine work on the screen, particularly Dekker's carefully wrought balance of inchoate anger, youthful bravado and raw fear. The Good Lie demonstrates again the fatal flaw that affects too many Canadian films: it's the script, stupid.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Based in Toronto, Michael Posner has been with the Globe and Mail since 1997, writing for arts, news and features.Before that, he worked for Maclean's Magazine and the Financial Times of Canada, and has freelanced for Toronto Llfe, Chatelaine, Walrus, and Queen's Quarterly magazines. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨