Watch my Movie Minute review of The Good Lie:
The Good Lie failed to attract many moviegoers when it hit theatres in the early fall, but let’s hope that it gets some more attention on home viewing. It’s one of the best movies of the year. There’s a lot of elements here that we’ve seen before. Telling the story of Sudan refugees coming to America, it’s partly a fish-out-of-water comedy. The unique thing is that it’s told from the point of view of the refugees, instead of the Americans that take them in. Reese Witherspoon is the marquee name here, but she plays a supporting role, as Carrie, one of the workers who helps out the men when they arrive in Kansas City.
The film starts with the guys as children in Sudan when they had to escape civil war. Walking by foot, they travel to Ethiopia, but learn that it’s now unsafe, so they have to turn around and walk to Kenya. The movie easily could have stretched this section of the film out and tediously had the characters walk across the country, but the story so efficiently depicts scenes that are extremely impactful. It packs a wallop without going on and on.
As adults, the “Lost Boys of Sudan” are played by Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jai, and Kuoth Wiel, all of whom were refugees themselves. Duany actually stayed at the Kenyan refugee camp back in the 1990s, where the film shot some scenes. Having it from their perspective helps us see our North American way of life from an outsider’s point of view. It’s fascinating watching the guys discover things like a telephone, a light switch, and driving in a car (one of them gets car sick right away). It also points out how our way of life is flawed.
While they are appreciative of their new life (and to be alive), they also struggle to adapt, and feel guilty over being the ones that survived when so many of their friends and family have died. Each one has a different journey, and the actors deliver powerful performances. They are well supported by Witherspoon, who brings real warmth and humour to scenes. The film subtly shows us that Carrie has as much to learn from them as they have to learn from her.
The film tells a thoughtful story that stays away from schmaltz. The film feels authentic, and it leads to a conclusion that brought me to tears. It doesn’t happen often, but this is a uniquely told story that really sneaks up on you.