Cinematic Releases: Lies We Tell (2018) - Reviewed

Lies We Tell is a story of lies and deception, control of information, and family values. The chauffer, named Donald (Gabriel Byrne), of a billionaire named Demi (Harvey Keitel) is given one final request, to wipe all evidence of his relationship with his mistress Amber (Sibylla Deen). Through this task, Donald soon finds out that Amber’s life is in danger due to an underground Bradford society that she is connected to. 

Written and directed by Mitu Misra, this is his directorial debut, having no prior experience in filmmaking before selling his business to create this film. For a man with no experience in filmmaking, it's impressive that he can take the lead on a production of this size and have it not be a complete disaster. 

As impressive and promising Misra’s handling of the production is there is nothing impressive or promising about the picture itself. It is in no way horrendous, but it is also in no way exceptional. 

Something that caught my attention right at the beginning of the movie was that is starts immediately. No prologue, no introduction. It just starts right at the drama. Was this an intentional choice? Who knows. If they wanted to immediately drop the audience into the height of the drama, than you have to have a good reason to do so. For example, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a movie which does not have a prologue chapter in its story. This helps add to the hectic pacing of the movie and enhances the idea that the event of Dunkirk was one large panic, so telling the story in a traditional three act structure would not work. 

Going back to Lies We Tell having no introduction, it just assumes you will follow who is who without any real introduction. This confuses the audience during the movie, instead of getting into the story you are too busy trying to figure out who the characters on the screen are. We can identify the people, but we don’t really know anything about them beyond a surface level. 20 minutes into the picture, the only things I knew about the characters was that Donald was a chauffeur for Demi and that Amber was Demi’s mistress. This is a complete failure in introducing the plot. In order to care about what is happening on screen, a film must first introduce the characters motivations and what is introduced in Lies We Tell is vague at best. 

From an acting standpoint, Lies We Tell has no real fault. All of the actors did a good job at feeling believable and nobody felt out of place in their role, with the exception of one. Jan Uddin plays the antagonist of the film, a criminal who’s had previous relations with Sibylla Deen’s character. His performance in this film is just weak. He made this character who is supposed to be a powerful and dangerous man feel straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The only way the they could have convinced me that this was intentional is if he had a comical mustache that he twirled every time he made an appearance. Game of Thrones star Mark Addy has a great performance as the character Billy and genuinely was the only part of the movie that I really enjoyed. 

When it comes to the filmmaking, everything is standard. Standard coverage, no interesting camera movements, nothing interesting with the editing. There are a lot of landscape shots of the Bradford hills though. There seems to be a big effort to show of the area of Bradford, but apart from displaying a few landscapes and landmarks the film can be set anywhere in the world and it wouldn’t affect the production in any way. I feel like Mitu Misra was trying to show how the area of Bradford feels so foreign to this man who grew up and still lives there, but it falls flat because Bradford is only used as a stage for the plot. An example of a film using locations to tell its story would be the 2006 film Kidulthood. Kidulthood makes use of the suburban failures of London to reflect on the characters of the film, it's so effective that scenes set in Central London away from the horrid flat towers and social housing makes the characters in the film stand out immensely, like they don’t belong. Lies We Tell does not do this, it could easily be set in Ilford and no one would notice. You move Kidulthood to Liverpool and you have a completely different motion picture. 

In conclusion, Lies We Tell is a valiant effort from a first time director. It's no easy feat to write and direct a feature length film and turn out with something like this. Misra has proven to be a good production lead. I hope in the future he can also show that he is a good filmmaker. 

Lies We Tell will be released in UK theaters on February 2nd.

-Justin Laybourn