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MOVIE REVIEW: “The Good Lie” Tells A Much Better Story Than You Expect



Directed by: Philippe Falardeau
Produced by: Ron Howard, Thad Luckinbill, Brian Grazer, Trent Luckinbill, Molly Smith, Karen Kehela, Genevieve Hofmeyr
Written By: Margaret Nagle
Starring: Arnold Oceng, Emmanuel Jal, Ger Duany, Reese Witherspoon, Corey Stoll, Kuoth Weil
9/ 10

User Rating
1 total rating



Brilliant and raw performances; heartfelt moments; well-told narrative; great Twists to the tired; cliched story


Minor pacing issues

Over the years, there are many stories about countries ravaged by violence; the story about the Sudanese Lost Boys is one of them. Despite the handful of documentaries and news stories that gave a lot of attention, it didn’t exactly come to the public’s universal consciousness as my elders would say. “The Good Lie” is […]

Posted July 30, 2015 by



Over the years, there are many stories about countries ravaged by violence; the story about the Sudanese Lost Boys is one of them. Despite the handful of documentaries and news stories that gave a lot of attention, it didn’t exactly come to the public’s universal consciousness as my elders would say. “The Good Lie” is something that would shine a bigger spotlight when it comes to that story as this film is an honest true to life adaptation where they put us in the shoes of this trio of brothers in their struggles of achieving true peace among them and themselves.

Plot Summary:

 After their village is destroyed and their parents killed by Northern militia, Sudanese orphans Theo, his siblings and other survivors make a difficult journey to a refugee camp in Kenya. Thirteen years later, the group (Arnold Oceng, Emmanuel Jal, Ger Duany and Kuoth Weil) gets the chance to settle in the U.S. They are met in Kansas by Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon), who has been charged with finding them jobs. However, seeing how adrift they are in 20th-century America, Carrie endeavors to help them in rebuilding their shattered lives.

     Not What It Seems

TG2If you’ve ever caught any form of promotional material for this movie, you may have gotten that feeling in which the film is exploring rather familiar ground when it comes to dramas that centers on black people in a “white world” and funnily enough this is from the same guys who gave us the Sandra Bullock football drama “The Blind Side”. I was guilty of that thought when I first saw the trailer as I see similarities of how Reese Witherspoon falls under the story as the “white savior” coming to aid the struggling black people, as the fish-out-of-water comedy tropes ensue that the three leads overcome as shown in the trailer. But it was better than that; This is a film that shows that in good intentions of Americans towards them, they didn’t exactly solve their problems when they bring them to America but instead give our three leads new problems to go through based on their past and present actions.

The film is this brilliant blend of a “feel good” movie and a bold drama that puts us in the shoes of a more foreign perspective than putting us into the ones helping them. It felt refreshing to see and even so experience something like how this film explore the grimness these kids went through as they travel hundreds of miles to get to a place that satisfices to them as “Sanctuary” than tossing that aside as expository dialogue for the three leads to tell to somebody else. The film does a good job in making us feel involved in their struggles as children and even adults when they go to America. The film may be somewhere down the PG line but it didn’t feel as if they’re just prancing about all of the violence the kids have undergone earlier in the movie, there were enough visual storytelling to make you feel unsettled without the sight of having blood be sprayed. The cinematography and the direction did a good job at showing the vulnerability these people go through whether they were kids trying to survive in the desert or even when they’re adults struggling to survive in a more complex jungle. But alas, there were some minor pacing issues with the movie, with some of the arcs of the movie felt unresolved and some were skimmed through than going to deeper ground than how they explored it. They are just minor complaints after all and it didn’t totally cripple the experience for me.

Playing with the “Fish Out of Water” Element

TG3Another example of the film making something better out of tired clichés is that we’ve seen characters like the trio be put through situations where everything is a first to them and seeing other people be used to these novelties would see them as rather “devious” acts or just plain weird. Not only did they play the fish out of water tropes as a comedic approach but also more of a heartfelt realization that does add up to the drama. There were some scenes that do make out to be well-timed comedic sequences whether it would have them be reacting to classic jokes, or wondering why someone would be talking aloud when she’s on a speaker phone. But also add something to the drama side of things when it comes to them telling stories of their past and it would come off as jokes to others or questioning their bosses as to why they would throw food from a grocery store they’re working for. Though they may not match the tone of the unsettling journey in the first act, these elements play effectively in the storytelling for the latter half of the movie and they are near-perfectly placed throughout the film.


TG4Reese Witherspoon has her name and face headlined through every trailer and poster (bigger than her forehead in fact) but in reality she’s more of a supporting role in this movie. She acts more of a supervisor than she is the savior that we thought she would be. Witherspoon played the spunky gal very well without diverging through her past Legally Blonde role, I do like the fact that she’s taking on smaller roles these days that would actually let her stretch her acting chops. The real stars are Arnold Oceng, Emmanuel Jal, and Ger Duany (even Kuoth Weil despite her short time in the movie). The four actors gives as a sense of rawness to their roles, and it is also mind blowing to know that two actors were actually part of the real life Sudanese Lost Boys giving their performance a sense of rawness and authenticity. Of course I’m not saying the other actors didn’t try to do the same when it comes to convincing the audiences about the roles they’re playing, thankfully the writing was able to give them enough material to not come off as caricatures.


The Good Lie” Director, Philippe Falardeu does a great job in crafting an inspirationally moving film as it was was able to tell an emotionally affecting tale that is of great importance. The director along with the cast treated the entire material with a lot of respect and honesty without sugar coating the struggles of what the so-called “Sudanese Lost Boys” have gone through in the past.

GP Manalo

G.P. Manalo is a student by day, and a resident tortured writer by night. Writing to keep him sane from all the Business School papers and presentations piling up each week.


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