Though she’s the prominent face on the film’s poster, Reese Witherspoon is not the star of The Good Lie. No, that honor goes to the men who play three of the Sudanese “Lost Boys” in this touching and ultimately safe film.
Directed by Philippe Falardeau and written by Margaret Nagle, The Good Lie tells the story of “The Lost Boys” of Sudan—children who fled the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2005. These children found sanctuary in refugee camps, but life wasn’t exactly easy there either. The film focuses on three of the children: Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jerimiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Mamere’s sister, Abital (Kuoth Wiel). Their story follows them from their hardships in Africa—being displaced by the war and having to travel on foot for hundreds of miles until finally reaching safety in Kenya—to becoming part of a relocation program to America. However, while the men are sent to Kansas City, Abital is sent to Boston. The film then becomes a fish out of water story as the narrative follows the men and they find jobs with the help of Carrie (Witherspoon), a social worker who works for Jack (Corey Stoll). Mamere wishes to become a doctor, so he works hard to reach his goal despite the fact that he is so far behind in reaching it. The pious Jerimiah faces moral decisions that leave him questioning what he’s doing in America, while the mechanically adept Paul falls in with some bad apples revealing just how lost he feels. They all miss Abital and it is a rough go for them. Also, Mamere is haunted by the sacrifice of his older brother Theo Will they ever be able to adapt to life in America?
The Good Lie is a relatively inoffensive film. There are some difficult moments in the beginning when it follows the characters as children escaping the war, but honestly, those scenes could have been much grittier. There is a real undercurrent of faith throughout the film, which explains its safe nature, but the filmmakers never cram it down the audience’s throats to turn this into a “Christian film.” Other than that, though, it’s a fairly generic film that will be a hit on basic cable. However, it’s also a very touching and moving film. Its story will resonate with everyone.
The acting is very good among the leads, but when it came to the more minor characters, it started feeling a little more TV-movie-ish. That also could have to do with the writing, though. Witherspoon is likable in her role, but again, she’s not the focus, so we never really learn a ton about her character. The relative unknowns—at least to American audiences—do very good work here and were completely believable in their roles.
Overall, The Good Lie was a nice film. It’s not going to win any awards, but it was just a nice story with a good cast and bittersweet ending. Like I said, completely inoffensive.