FILM REVIEW: THE LIE is a powerful meditation on the extremes we can be driven to for those that we love.


Writer/director Veena Sud delivers a downcast look at a family broken by divorce and how committing to a lie to try and save that unit ultimately destroys it.

Upon watching THE LIE, one of two feature-length films dropped by genre powerhouse Blumhouse on Amazon Video on October 6th as part of their new Black Mirror link film anthology series Welcome to the Blumhouse, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 1990s MTV Buzz Clip from Rollins Band song for their song Liar. In it, lead singer Henry Rollins states at one point that he sees that the destructive power of a lie is stronger than truth. In THE LIE, Rollins’ words ring especially true in the writing and direction of Veena Sud. THE LIE follows Kayla (Joey King), a 15-year-old student ballet dancer. Kayla grew up in a somewhat idyllic home life with a loving musician father Jay (Peter Sarsgaarde) and a corporate lawyer mother Rebecca (Mireille Enos). At some point in her young life, Jay and Rebecca split up and Kayla starts to act out. Jay becomes the fun weekend dad, while Rebecca is a strong disciplinarian. One day, Jay is tasked with taking Kayla to a ballet retreat in a town called Gresham. He drives Kayla up, but along the way they run into Kayla’s fellow student Brittany (Devery Jacobs). Kayla convinces Jay to drive Brittany up to Gresham with the two of them. Brittany flirts with Jay and asks if they can pull over so she can pee. Jay begrudgingly agrees. But after pulling over, he loses track of the girls, only to find that Kayla has pushed her off an icy bridge after hearing a scream. Jay takes her back home, where Rebecca finds out what Kayla has done. The two scramble after realizing that Kayla could go to jail for second-degree murder after hearing what she has done. Complicating matters is Brittany’s dad (Cas Anvar) coming around trying to find his daughter. All the while, Kayla seems strangely unbothered by what she has done. It ratchets up the tension even as Jay and Rebecca make more sacrifices and dig a deeper hole as they try to shield Kayla from the consequences of her actions. They’re her parents and they care for her, but as Kayla fails to show any remorse it begs the questions as to why they’re going through such lengths to keep Kayla from taking the fall for her friend’s death.

THE LIE, based on a German film called WIR MONSTERS, is the second English language reimagining that Sud has done for the American market. She was the creator and showrunner of AMC’s THE KILLING, which was an adaptation of a similar Danish story. Sud works with many of her THE KILLING regulars in this film, which similarly follows the story of a crime unfold and its cost. Enos and Sarsgaarde bring the emotional costs to bear on film in a very real and tangible way. Enos is a working mother who has struggled with raising her daughter as a disciplinarian figure with an absent father, while Sarsgaarde, having been absent from his daughter’s life wants to be a vivid presence when he is around her. The thought that their happy child could seemingly kill another in cold blood destroys them both in different ways. Meanwhile, Joey King, having played a manipulative child in Hulu’s The Act, channels that energy with aplomb here. We don’t know if she is a sociopath or a child longing to reunite her parents despite the weight of the anchor she is using to keep them onshore. Sud’s script also manages to be timely and real, as Enos’ Rebecca starts to cast blame on Brittany’s father, a Pakistani immigrant, to throw the blame off her daughter in the eyes of authorities. Race plays a role in the line of questioning the police use in asking him if he is responsible for his daughter’s disappearance. Cas Anvar has one of the most complex roles in the film, as he is a caring father who wants to know where his daughter is but is a villain in Kayla’s point of view because he is trying to expose the one element holding her family together. The conclusion of this scenario is a heartwrenching one that is unexpected and hits you the viewer like a ton of bricks emotionally.

THE LIE is a sobering and, at times, a morose depiction of a broken family. It is a wonderfully acted and written piece that shows off the true emotional craft in Enos, Sarsgaarde, and King, but it is a difficult watch, as you are seeing the last throes of a broken family. Sud’s talent at getting real emotion out of her actors and in her writing is in full display, channeling We Need To Tale About Kevin, by way of how one’s love can lead you to dark places in familial relationships.

3 of 5 Stars
– A difficult watch, but expertly directed with great acting throughout.