“I have courage but all you have is strength.”
Director Philippe Falardeau’s follow up to his Oscar nominated film, Monsieur Lazhar, centers on a group of Sudanese children who have managed to escape the massacre of their village during the Civil War and walked nearly a thousand miles to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. At the time, thousands of Sudanese were forced to flee out of their country due to the war and find refugee in camps across Ethiopia and Kenya. After nearly thirteen years of living in poor conditions the kids were relocated to the United States along with other thousands of “lost boys.” Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) are sent to Kansas where they meet Carrie (Reese Witherspoon), an employment counselor who helps them adjust to their new lives. Mamere’s sister, Abital (Kuoth Wiel) on the other hand is sent to Boston because there was no family willing to take her in Kansas and for some strange reason she wasn’t allowed to stay with the boys. The first 30 minutes of the film take place in Sudan as we follow the children’s journey to safety and experience some of the horrors they had to go through in their long walk. Once the surviving children arrive in Kansas the film centers on their struggle to adjust to this new life. The Good Lie is an uplifting and inspiring story that ends up falling into the classic fish out of water tale once the refugees arrive in America. The film finds a perfect balance in tone mixing comedy with the inspiring and emotional drama and I was completely engaged with the story.
Contrary to what the poster may lead you to believe, Reese Witherspoon is only a supporting character in this film. The film centers on the four surviving Sudanese refugees, and these newcomers deliver solid performances. Duany and Jal are both former “lost boys’ in real life making the incredible journey from their torn villages to becoming Hollywood actors. Both were even forced to be child soldiers and I’m sure their testimony is even more powerful than this film itself, but knowing where they have come from gives this movie an even more inspiring and uplifting feeling to it. Oceng gives perhaps the best performance in the film, and he too comes from a Sudanese background (his father was a lost boy who was relocated to England). The actors deliver some incredibly engaging performances and the camera many times focuses on their faces which say a lot about how they are feeling. The greatest strength of The Good Lie is that it manages to keep the center of the story on the Lost Boys and not make it all about how the Americans managed to rescue these people. That is why Witherspoon takes a back seat and lets the four Sudanese actors be the driving force of this movie. The title itself has deep significance and is explained later on in a touching scene involving Oceng’s character.
It is almost impossible not to like a film when there is such an inspirational part of history that is being told through the camera lens. The film has many flaws and at times the opening events feel a little rushed, but it works because it allows the audience to fill in the blanks of the many horrors these children must have gone through without forcing the melodramatic moments and being too explicit. Seeing the grief and pain in the actors faces is enough to understand where they are coming from and what they are feeling. The scenes involving the cultural clash may seem a bit too generic because we’ve seen it played out many times before but the formula continues to work nonetheless and there are plenty of humorous moments. It’s a shame not many people watched this story because it is one that is worth being seen. Witherspoon’s strong performance in Wild may have led fans to watch that movie over this one, but I found The Good Lie to be the better movie of the two. The Good Lie is an emotionally engaging and moving film so if you happen to get a chance to see it, I’d recommend it.