My second dive into Amazon’s “Welcome to Blumhouse” series was the snappy domestic thriller “The Lie”. The film actually premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2018, but it wasn’t picked up for distribution until August 2020. It’s the second of eight original films producer Jason Blum is doing for Amazon Prime. All of the movies center around the similar theme of “family and love as a redemptive or destructive force”. Each come from uniquely fresh filmmakers who explore the subject matter in their own distinct style.
“The Lie” comes from writer-director Veena Sud and is an adaptation of a 2015 German film titled “We Monsters”. It’s hardly the kind of film you would expect from the horror-focused Blumhouse. It has already met criticism for its lack of scares, but it makes sense considering this is in no way a horror movie. It’s a domestic drama/thriller that’s far more interested in the central family dynamic than the murder mystery the film is built upon.
Sud begins her film with a montage of old videos. They show a bright and sunny little girl named Kayla sharing fun moments with her mom and dad. Within those few brief images we see the picture of a happy family. Sadly, a lot can change in just a few years. Jump ahead to now 15-year-old Kayla (Joey King) and we see a much different girl. The smile and playful chatter has given way to a moody, frustrated teen. We’re quickly shown the reason for her melancholy.
Turns out Kayla’s parents have divorced and both are trying to move on with new people in their lives. Her mother Rebecca (Mireille Enos) is a successful corporate layer dating a nice-enough business traveler. Her father Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) is a middle-aged musician having a fling with one of his bandmates. Both parents try their best under the circumstances, but Kayla still feels lost in a new life she never asked for.
As Jay drives Kayla to a ballet school retreat they pick up her friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs) at a bus stop. Several miles down the road the girls need a roadside bathroom break. Kayla and Brittany run into the woods and a short time later Jay hears a chilling scream. He runs through the snow to find his stunned daughter sitting alone on a bridge. Jay frantically begins searching for Brittany until Kayla suddenly admits to pushing her friend off the bridge.
Assuming Brittany is dead, Jay hurries Kayla into the car and drives away. After telling Rebecca what happened the parents decide to keep quiet for fear of ruining their daughter’s future. But (as you would expect) soon their cover-up begins to unravel especially when Brittany’s father (Cas Anvar) begins asking questions. And you can’t really blame him. Several of the family’s actions are almost begging to be questioned.
But that’s actually a point of the film. It shows what happens when you compound one bad decision with another. It shows how a desperate and emotionally rattled person can do rash and unthinkable things. The film also prods us to wonder how well we really know our own kids. And how far will a family go to ‘protect’ their daughter? Don’t get me wrong, this is no intellectually stimulating cinematic probe. But some people may be surprised at how relevant these questions are today, and the film’s answers to them intentionally pushes rationality to the brink.
But unfortunately this is a movie with an obligatory twist and it’s one I figured out within the first 20 minutes. Strangely I can’t pinpoint one particular instance where the movie tips its hand. Yet I had an idea where it was going and that’s exactly where it went. I still enjoyed the meat of the movie, the committed performances, and a few scenes of genuinely good tension. Unfortunately it ends with one of the most ho-hum, nonchalant reveals imaginable. Sarsgaard and Enos deserve credit for working hard to sell the scene. But it ends up cutting the legs out from under what is otherwise a surprising effective high-stress thriller. “The Lie” is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
VERDICT- 3.5 STARS