DVD Review - The Good Lie

The title references a line and plot point by Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn. It references an untruth that someone tells not to protect oneself but to protect or help someone else. Beyond just the untruth, as depicted here, screenwriter Margaret Nagle also makes it about sacrifice, physical sacrifice, so that people can continue to live or even have it better.

The film focuses on five Sudanese refugees who come to the United States after being orphaned when civil war breaks out in the 1980's in that African country. The five are orphaned when they were children and are forced to walk from their Sudanese village, which is destroyed by rebel soldiers, all the way to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, set up by the United Nations. It's a nearly 800-mile walk.

Not since Peter Weir's The Way Back or Sherry Hormann's Desert Flower has something like that walk been portrayed with such authority or genuineness. Obviously, there's only so much director Philippe Falardeau is willing to show with regard to the horror and even the deaths of the children, but the feeling of terror, pain and even thirst is thoroughly felt. The children trek for a long time through the African desert and we feel their thirst.

Once the children reach Kenya, they are forced to stay at the Kakuma Refugee Camp for 13 years. This fact doesn't feel genuine or is really felt at all. The children, now young adults, are clearly bonded. When they get the ability to go to America, through one reason or another, only three get to be together or stay together.

Arnold Oceng stars as Mamere, the shortest but second eldest. He aspires to be a doctor. Ger Duany co-stars as Jeremiah, the tallest and skinniest. He's also the most versed in the Bible and realizes the parallel to Moses' story in terms of what happened to them. Emmanuel Jal co-stars as Paul who becomes the most cynical, especially in light of him being the most maladjusted to the culture shock. Paul fought a lion and now has a factory job.

Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon has a small role as Carrie, an employment agent who helps Mamere, Jeremiah and Paul find work in Kansas City, Missouri, where they end up. Corey Stoll (House of Cards and The Strain) plays Jack, a friend and boss for Carrie, who also lends a hand in assisting the three Sudanese immigrants. Both Witherspoon and Stoll are great in their brief appearances. Even soap stud-turned-producer Thad Luckinbill is good in his brief appearance.

I thought it was great that the film used actual Sudanese refugees for this movie, which increases its authenticity, but apparently the film is now the subject of a lawsuit, based on the use of actual refugees. Eriq Gardner recently wrote about it for The Hollywood Reporter.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence, brief strong language and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.


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