Welcome to part two of my “Welcome to Blumhouse” review series! Earlier this week, I wrote a review on Black Box, and this time I’ll be discussing Veena Sud’s film The Lie. Just like all of the “Welcome to Blumhouse” films, The Lie is available to anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription. I will do my best to keep this as a spoiler-free review, but if I find myself wandering into spoiler territory, I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for tuning in, and I hope you enjoy the review!
The Lie (singular) is a misnomer, to say the least, for a film where a character hardly opens their mouth without some kind of intentional deceit. The effects of this are twofold in that it both makes it impossible to like, or even remotely relate to, any of the protagonists (with us all being good people who know that lying = bad, right? RIGHT?), but also creates a consistent, nauseous knowing that their clumsily constructed house of cards is just a sideways glance away from collapsing. This keeps The Lie compelling right up to the end, even despite my involuntary eye-rolls during some of the film’s more melodramatic and head-scratching plot developments.
Of the four “Welcome to Blumhouse” films on Prime Video, The Lie’s synopsis is by far the most intriguing: “When their teenage daughter impulsively confesses to killing her best friend, two desperate parents cover up the horrific crime with a web of lies and deception.” This just oozes psychological intrigue, and from the get-go, I was on board with the film’s vision. I was interested in seeing how the film would portray parents’ ability (or inability) to rationalize their children’s roles in horrific deeds. I wanted to see how they cope with the fact that they really don’t know the person they thought they have created in their own (usually idealized) image and how that would clash with their own denial/acceptance of their own, remote, role in that act. For the first 45 minutes, The Lie delivers on just that, with Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos (as the parents) convincingly delivering the emotional toll of their characters’ rationalization and compartmentalization. As their daughter, Joey King plays an overly-compensatory sort of denial against her parents’ various breakdowns, and Cas Anvar delivers my favorite performance of the film as the missing/dead girl’s father.
After comparing Black Box to an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror (not particularly favorably, to be clear), it’s hard to avoid another comparison here for The Lie. The film’s pacing/cinematography/color palette is highly reminiscent of the Black Mirror Season 4 episode “Crocodile,” which tells a similar running-from-consequences story. Of course, “Crocodile” itself is an entry into the larger sub-genre of that kind of slow-burn Icelandic/Scandinavian murder-procedural story. The barren, snowy landscapes are the perfect visual companions to the story’s psychological nature. Why this is the case is beyond me, but when it works, it works. Unfortunately, the comparison to Black Mirror is once again relatively unfavorable since The Lie, like Black Box, is a pretty humorless affair (at least in terms of intent. There are definitely instances of unintentional humor). The transplant of the snowy-covered landscapes to suburban America combined with the protagonists’ bumbling attempts at a coverup also made me long for the self-awareness and levity of Fargo (either the film or the series, both deliver that kind of pitch-perfect humor), which was never delivered.
Ultimately The Lie, like Black Box, is a pretty bleak experience until the last couple of minutes, where the ending is not undeserved but is still somehow disappointing. While the first half of the film successfully set up several emotionally intriguing arcs for its characters, the latter half mostly falls short of those promises. This is mainly due to a series of utterly illogical decisions made by characters, which serve only to A: Create drama and B: Undermine the assumption that these people do not want to get caught (although maybe they did subconscious way). The point I’m trying to make about the ending is that in a lot of ways, it is the perfect ending for The Lie, but that’s not necessarily a compliment. Nevertheless, I decided to keep this review spoiler-free because I think that this is a film that is worth watching and forming your own opinions on. It is, at the least, compelling first one-and-a-half acts for a critical viewer, and a confusing mess for the remainder, cruising mostly on whatever goodwill it garnered in the beginning; which, to be fair, worked on me and got me through some of the plots more convoluted twists. Give The Lie it a go! I’ll leave whether it was worth it up to you.