The Lie (2018) ***

I rarely feel inclined to dig around the two streamers – Netflix and Amazon – available to me what with a vast backlog of 1960s DVD/VHS still to plough through and interest in contemporary cinema sated though a weekly visit to the multiplex.  It’s rare that I can sit through more than five minutes of the movies funded or picked up by streamers, so poor is their quality control. So this came as a surprise.

The acting’s not the best and just when you are beginning to run out of patience suddenly the real twist kicks in and it makes terrible, terrible sense and a situation that has spiralled out of control ends up in a bottomless pit. I say the real twist because I had guessed the first twist, an obvious consequence of the set-up of these kind of films. But the real twist is much darker and eminently more savage.

So, the basic story is rock musician Jay (Peter Sarsgard), estranged from wife Rebecca (Mireille Enos), takes teenage daughter Kayla (Joey King) to dance camp and on the way picks up her best pal Trini (Dani Kind) and somewhere in the middle of an ice-bound wilderness said friend needs the toilet. Kayla and pal go off but only Kayla returns, admitting she has pushed friend off a bridge into icy river.

Jay’s now got to decide how to protect his murderous daughter, hide any evidence of Trini being in the car etc. He confides in Rebecca, and protecting their daughter brings the couple closer together. Meanwhile, Kayla is acting as if what’s all the fuss about. This is dysfunctional on the rocks.

Luckily, it turns out Trini has a record of running away and her dad Sam (Cas Anwar) has a terrible temper and may be abusing her so it’s relatively easy to get the police to consider him the main suspect, especially as he’s very lax in reporting the child missing. Plus, Rebecca seems to know her way about the police and Sam makes the mistake of causing a scene in the street.

But, of course, nothing goes according to plan, the situation gets worse, as the innocent parents try to fabricate something that will make the police go away. There’s a lot of other subtle stuff that complicates the situation. But essentially it’s two parallel stories diverging along psychological lines.

With those malevolent eyes, Peter Sarsgard (The Batman, 2022) has some difficulty passing for innocent, and of course his character is not exactly saintly, so that muddies the waters, as I guess is the intention, while the casting of Mirielle Enos (best-known as the detective in the U.S. television adaptation of Nordic hit The Killing, 2011-2014) also suggests the director is hoping to mislead the audience.

Joey King (Bullet Train, 2022) is so sulky and petulant from the outset that you wouldn’t be remotely surprised that her teenage hormones could escalate into murder and then for her sit back and enjoy watching her parents try to deal with the consequences.

And you might nitpick and wonder exactly what kind of town this is when there’s not a single neighbour to appear at the sound of an argument or a fight or a car accident, and no cameras on the streets. But generally, this is a tight mostly three-hander with tension quietly building, wrong decisions taken by people who think they are cleverer than they are, a finely balanced pyramid of parental attitudes to children and vice-versa and throwing out the one question every parent hopes to avoid: how will your react if your beloved child commits a heinous crime? What lengths will you go to protect them?

So in the context of the shattering ending, everything makes far worse sense.

A very neat thriller and almost a made-for-streamer feel about it, in the old made-for-television sense.

Writer-director Veena Sud (The Salton Sea, 2016) keeps a keen grip on a tale that is a remake of German picture Wir Monster (2015).

On Amazon Prime.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

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