Director: Philippe Falardeau (2015)
When refugees land in the US, their troubles are far from over in this moving and surprisingly gripping drama.
It’s a tale of love, family and sacrifice set against the background of war, immigration and isolation.
Rather than asking us to pity the immigrants or expect them to be grateful, The Good Lie makes us consider the wealth and privilege of our own circumstance.
Having fled war in Sudan as children, Mamere, Abital, Jeremiah and Paul (Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal) spend the next thirteen years in a Kenyan refugee camp.
They celebrate when they’re chosen to be air-lifted to the US to start a new life – but bureaucracy separates Abital from the boys and she’s sent to a distant part of the US. The subsequent terrorism of 911 makes it impossible for her brother Mamere to visit.
Well-meaning and justifiably proud of helping, Pamela (Sarah Baker) is a vaguely incompetent charity worker who houses the boys together.
It’s beleaguered and bemused job-broker Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) who does most to help assimilate them by providing opportunities for paid employment. She has a complicated love life seemingly having slept with half the town; the male half.
An angry, attractive and formidable presence, Witherspoon crashes through her scenes. It’s not much of a role but she makes the absolute most of it as a baseball bat-swinging drunk who is surprised by her own conscience. Were it not for her charisma, the film would suffer being dominated by the men.
Everyday living provides mundane but enormous obstacles to the boys who’ve never operated a telephone before. They’re perplexed at the enormous waste of food and struggle with the American diet.
All are traumatised by their and seek comfort in different ways; one looks to the church, one to drugs and the other buries himself in work to avoid his survivor’s guilt.
The greatest threat to the success of The Good Lie is attempting to navigate the shifts in tone from a gripping survival adventure to a culture clash comedy and an uplifting tale of redemption. It’s to the great credit to its writer, cast and director it succeeds without jarring.
The final third seems rushed and consequently over-reliant on the emotional momentum generated much earlier in the film, despite this The Good Lie lands an effective emotional punch.