Lies We Tell
Starring: GABRIEL BYRNE; SIBYLLA DEEN; JAY UDDIN; MARK ADDY; HARVEY KEITEL
Screenplay by: EWEN GLASS; ANDY MCDERMOTT
Directed by: MITU MISRA
Released 2nd February 2018 (UK; US)
I went it to this movie expecting one thing and got something totally different. In some ways that is what its strength is. In other ways it isn't.
Let me explain.
When you see Harvey Keitel and Gabriel Byrne in the cast list you expect a certain machismo and performances of note. I expect both to be bombastic and, to a degree, scenery should be chewed! So when I took the opportunity to review this movie I took it and read absolutely nothing about it beforehand. This I very rarely do.
Going in cold to Mitu Misra's debut feature I found myself excited. It's not very long before Keitel and Byrne share the screen. Byrne plays a very measured and dour character - at first. Keitel, in my opinion, shows more energy in the UK's First Direct television adverts but that may be a disservice to a great actor so I'll hold my tongue.
Lies We Tell starts slowly and because of this I was intrigued. That's the beauty of not knowing what's coming - you have to watch. Sadly, though, for me, the tempo left me cold. It matched Byrne's character.
You see if I go into the story too much I feel like I'll be spoiling the depth of the piece so I won't. Thankfully, the pace does pick up but the story changes tone (I feel) a bit like From Dusk Til Dawn did - except, no, there are no vampires!. The jolt from one type of movie (rich guy with mistress needs his laundry cleaned) to another (religious community politics - a story I'd of loved Ken Loach to tell) made me lose track of what I was watching. I watched around 45 minutes and had to stop because I felt lost. I did resume the movie and I did re-watch it in one sitting and the jolt didn't hit as hard the second time around. I'm as yet undecided as to whether the filmmaker has achieved what he meant to or not.
For a movie that contains rape, adultery, religion, violence, and Toyah Wilcox(!) I felt underwhelmed. The performances of the leads, however, were perfectly servicable.
Byrne does slow burn in his sleep. At times you can see the cogs turning but there are moments that show his ability to move and shock. The character has a past that is both tragic and sombre so when the break happens, Byrne goes large!
Keitel barely registers.
Sibylla Deen (Amber) who is the mistress and centre of all the plotlines excels in a seemingly dual role of sultry vixen and a woman defiled and abused by her family - both physically and mentally. When I found out that Deen was born and raised in Australia I was shocked. She performs admirably in a part that requires fragility, frustration, and passion. If she isn't featuring in more high-profile projects in the near future I'd be surprised.
But now to Mitu Misra.
As a first time feature director (Lies... is the only credit on his IMDB profile) there is much to applaud. The handling of culture clashes, communities at war, and the denial of the impact of these are done well. The story meanders though and at times I lost who I was supposed to care about. For example, Amber's brother appears to be somebody to care about in the first section of the film but then is relegated to the background. The focus switched to her 16 year old sister (who she shares a similar course of events to) and KD, her gangster cousin. It's these oversights that I'm sure, hopefully, Misra will iron out of his work because the direction shows promise of what's to come.
Is it cinema trip worthy? Not in my opinion. It would be a movie for VOD for me. Not awful but not excellent either.