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The Good Lie (2014)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/23/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/15/2014
Own The Good Lie on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD on December 23rd
On today's episode of "Here's What's Wrong with the World", let's talk about the modern news cycle. Most news broadcasts attempt to pack as many stories as possible into their programming. This means that we get the headlines, but rarely get any details. Even if one goes on-line to try and learn more about a story, it can often take significant digging to truly get the meat of a story. This means that many Americans are walking around knowing headlines (if that), but ultimately don't know the real "hows" and "whys" of the story in question. That is why movies like The Good Lie can be such a blessing. Even if they are fictionalized accounts of a real event, they help us to reach a better understanding of the story, and in this case, ourselves.
Our story begins in 1987, in Sudan, where a group of villagers are living their peaceful lives. This peace is torn asunder when that country's civil war comes to their territory, as soldiers invade the village, killing everyone in sight. A group of children escape from the village and begin walking across Africa. Surviving the elements and further encounters with soldiers, a small part of that original group make it to a refugee camp in Kenya. After spending thirteen years living in the camp, Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) finally get the opportunity to travel to America. Mamere, Jeremiah, and Paul are sent to live in Kansas City. Upon arrival, they meet Carrie (Reese Witherspoon), an employment agency representative who is surprised to learn that the men know nothing of modern technology and the Western world. She assists them in getting jobs, but having spent their whole lives living in squalor, the refugees have a difficult time adjusting to life in the U.S. Despite their troubles, they never forget that family comes first.
The Good Lie is actually two stories in one, both of which are equally gut-wrenching. The first portion of the film essays the groups days in Africa. We briefly see them living their pastoral lives in the village, but this is quickly torn asunder as the area is bombed. The youngsters (portrayed by Peterdeng Mongok, Okwar Jale, Thon Kueth, Deng Ajuet, Keji Jale, and David Madingi) do a fantastic job of portraying the strife experienced by the refugees. While watching these children walk thousands of miles simply to survive is harsh, the movie doesn't shy away from the fact that the soldiers involved in the civil war gunned-down children in cold blood. The second half of the story shows the survivors coming to America and attempting to assimilate. This part is equally, if not more, disturbing, as it shows just how primitive (by Western standards) and desperate their lives were in Africa.
The movie works because it remains very objective about the material. In a more myopic film, the story would end with the Sudanese coming to America to lead full lives. But, perhaps because Director Philippe Falardeau is Canadian, the film doesn't shy away from some very realistic issues. Even those who should know better assume that Mamere and his brothers know about and understand modern technology and conveniences. It's really eye-opening to see someone who doesn't know what a telephone is. The guys get jobs, but they are extremely non-glamorous ones, and the movie shows that simply working does not mean that one can get by. We also see that some of those who want to help the guys may have their hearts in the right place, but they are still ignorant of the trauma these people experienced. The movie's message is that, in the end, family is often all that one has.
The subject matter may not sound very appealing, but The Good Lie is an emotional ride. Something like this clearly runs the risk of being too preachy or saccharine, but the movie maintains a good balance. While it isn't based on one particular story or individual, the film portrays what life was like for many refugees, in both Africa and America. The movie doesn't turn a blind eye to the plight suffered by these individuals, but it also shows the strength of character involved in these stories. This is a very powerful film, which is capped off by a devastating twist ending. Reese Witherspoon gets top billing, and while she's good here, she is essentially a co-star, as Oceng, Duany, and Jal take the lead. The Good Lie would be a great movie to watch as a family, in order to discuss what life is like in other countries and how we can often take what we have for granted.
The Good Lie will make you feel bad about everything on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable, as we can make out the textures on objects and the depth works well, especially during the scenes on the African plains. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, this is a quiet, dialogue-driven drama. However, the scenes where the helicopters bomb the village provide good surround sound and subwoofer effects. The dialogue sounds especially good, making the characters easy to understand.
The Good Lie Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. "The Good Lie Journey" (16 minutes) is a making-of featurette which focuses on the real-life facts which are reflected in the film. The piece then looks at the lengths which were gone through to cast actual Sudanese refugees in the film. The actors talk about how the movie mirrors their real lives. This contains interviews with the Writer and Director, as well as the producers and the casting director. We also see some rehearsal footage. There is also a discussion of Director's Falardeau's directing style and shooting in Africa. The Disc contains fifteen DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes. These are all quite brief and most simply expand on things seen in the film. There was a romantic subplot which was cut, as well as a medical one, both of which are interesting, but it's understandable why they were cut.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long