Directors and actors of Indian descent are lately making some waves in America. But Veena Sud’s Indianness is not the only factor in this fear-fest’s favour. The Lie is a thriller with no ghosts – just normal people and a teenaged heroine who should have been disciplined by her parents when she was still a child. But they were probably busy fighting. There is a message of domestic rupture and reparation here that plays out well within the thriller format. Mireille Enos and Peter Sarsgaard as the Logans, a hostile couple who suddenly comes together when their daughter creates an unexpected crisis, are real and compelling.
Director Veena Sud uses the polished upper-class interiors of their homes to set off a kind of guilt trip where the gleaming walls stare accusingly at the residents. There is a sequence where a potential assailant tries to peep into the Logans’ home to see if anyone is inside while the daughter Kayla (Joey King) tries to hide. This is almost like a literal interpretation of the adage about people who live in glass houses. Joey of Kissing Booth fame has an interesting face, that expresses truancy and distress well.
Kayla hurls a stone at her well-to-do parents’ glass-house existence by announcing that she has just pushed her best friend into the icy lake. Rage having had its way, the rest of the film is about Kayla’s parents trying to protect their daughter from a pair of nosy cops and the missing girl’s father (played by Persian actor Can Anver) who happens to be Pakistani. There is a stab of irony in the way Can’s grief is rendered suspicious just because he is an immigrant and that to from you-know-where. As a writer, Sud has plenty of room in her plot to maneuver her characters into situations where their inner prejudices are exposed. She holds back whenever melodrama summons.
How far would you go to save your daughter from imprisonment? The obvious answer is rendered into a film of taut dimensions fraught with scenes of real danger. However, the last passage of the storytelling is so suddenly outrageous, it almost feels like a cheap shot. The Lie is no longer a crisis. It’s a joke that has gone too far. Luckily the end-game doesn’t take down the film. There is much to admire here, for example the way director Sud uses the interiors of her protagonists’ home to suggest the sterile emptiness and mild melancholy of the well-appointed household. Now that’s scary.