“The Good Lie,” released Friday, October 3, is positioning itself to be the first entry in the newest awards season. The film has been marketing to seemingly star Reese Witherspoon, but that is the farthest from the truth. Rather than taking the road of films such as “The Blind Side” where the plight is told from the white protagonist view, here we experience something of “12 Years A Slave” where the characters whose story is being told actually take the lead in telling it.
The film follows a group of Sudanese refugees as they are relocated to the United States. It spans a thirteen-year time, from when this particular group of “Lost Boys” lost their village, travelled to Kenya and were placed in the Kakuma refugee camp, which still operates to this day. They lived in the camp for 13 years and were eventually chosen to come to the United States as part of a charity relocation program. As they attempt to adjust to life in America, with the help of Witherspoon’s employment counselor whose short time spent actually on screen shows her character making leaps in the morality department.
The entire film is at time both hopeful and heartbreaking. There are millions still in these refugee camps, and even less aid to help them as their numbers grow. The plight of the refugee is spoken of in throwaway lines in the second half of the film, such as when the refugee relocation program is halted following 9/11. We see these four people, three men and a woman, as they grow from terrified but resilient child refugees to those few who did make it within the US borders. They try to make their way in a country whose customs and morality represent a drastic departure to some of those that helped them cope in the camps, and they come to terms with their new home and in fitting in where their beliefs lead them.
Of the four actors that play the “Lost Boys,” three can claim this in truth in some way, giving their performances that much more credibility. Ger Duany (Jeremiah), Emmanuel Jal (Paul) and Kuoth Wiel (Abital) have all come from that region and its years of strife to emerge as artists that can give voice to that area. Arnold Oceng, who plays leader and brother Mamere, may not have come from the area, but his performance is not lacking for the experience, and he leads the film with a gravitas and vulnerability that is touching to witness.
With supporting performances from Witherspoon, Corey Stoll and Sarah Baker, “The Good Lie” is an effort not remiss in its mission. Inspired by true events, we see a war on screen that is not often given a voice, or the kinds of faces that we see here. Tissues are a potential requirement for this movie, for it moves more than one emotion in its audience. “The Good Lie” is by and far an A effort in its treatment of its source material and how it reaches a conclusion we didn’t expect with a resignation that may not sit quite well when the credits roll. “The Good Lie” has a run time of 110 minutes and is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief strong language, drug use and some violence.