‘The Lie’ review: slow-paced mystery thriller has one final secret to reveal

Joey King's Blumhouse horror is unseated by an ill-advised, late-game plot twist

Made back in 2018 under a different name, The Lie finally finds a home on Amazon as part of the new ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse’ series – launching alongside sci-fi horror Black Box as a slower, more staged kind of genre thrill. Unseated in the final act by a hole-y plot twist, it’s still 90 per cent of a decent drama, with Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos on top form as parents unravelling around a covered-up crime.

Sarsgaard (Garden State, The Batman) is Jay, washed-up dad to 15-year-old Kayla (Joey King from The Kissing Booth) and ex-husband of working mum Rebecca (Enos, from World War Z). Things are still icy in the family after the recent split, and no one’s too happy about Jay driving Kayla to a weekend dance retreat if it means spending a few hours in the same car together. Luckily, Kayla spots her friend Brittney at a bus stop and offers to give her a lift. Unluckily, a pee break quickly turns into a homicide when the girls fight over a boy and Brittney ends up at the bottom of a frozen river.

Just as in Shallow Grave, Calibre, most Coen Brother dramas and pretty much every other film about accidental murders, Jay and Rebecca decide to do the stupid thing and avoid telling the police – burning Kayla’s clothes, calling in sick and trying to act like nothing has happened when Brittany’s Dad comes asking questions. Also just like every other film about the same thing, it’s not half as easy as they think.

Directed with cold clarity by Veena Sud, the showrunner on the US version of The Killing (also starring Enos and Sarsgaard), The Lie unfolds at a respectably slow pace – showing the film’s roots in Euro noir as an adaptation of the 2015 German film Wir Monster. Mostly set in the family’s fancy condo as the snow thaws outside, the story plays out like an old-fashioned stage play, more interested in needling away at the deeper drama beneath the surface than it is in throwing in unnecessary twists and turns.

The Lie
Joey King (‘The Kissing Booth 2’) plays a teen who commits a terrible crime. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

With no horror, no dark comedy and no gore to speak of, it all feels like a slightly odd match for Blumhouse, but it’s nice to see the studio branching out – and nice to see such a familiar film taking its time to linger on the details that others always seem to miss. Skipping the “missed blood splatter” or the “forgotten fingerprint” MacGuffins that usually power similar titles, The Lie focuses instead on the bigger problems of bad parenting, broken families and self-harm. Even without a dead girl to worry about, Kayla’s family is already teetering when we first meet them – a fragile teen caught in the middle of an ugly breakup, and two adults who don’t know how to hold things together.

All three leads do a great job of making their characters feel lived in, with Enos standing out as a lawyer who’s terrible at lying, Sarsgaard giving good sleaze and King balancing dangerously on the edge of mania. It’s a huge shame then, that a final shock sours the whole film, opening up gaping plot holes and undoing all the nice, nasty work of the last 90 minutes. Switch it off before the big reveal and you’ll find a fine line in slow-building psychological dread, but watch to the end and you’ll probably be left wondering why you bothered.

Details

  • Director: Veena Sud
  • Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Joey King, Cas Anvar
  • Released: October 6 (Amazon Prime Video)
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