The Good Lie (2014) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Good Lie (2014)



Critic Consensus: The Good Lie sacrifices real-life nuance in order to turn its true story into a Hollywood production, but the results still add up to a compelling, well-acted, and deeply moving drama.

Movie Info

They were known simply as "The Lost Boys." Orphaned by the brutal Civil war in Sudan that began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3600 lost boys and girls to America. In "The Good Lie," Philippe Falardeau, (writer and director of the Oscar(R)- nominated Foreign Language film "Monsieur Lazhar") brings the story of their survival and triumph to life. Sudanese actors Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, and newcomer Nyakuoth Weil, many of whom were also children of war, star alongside Academy Award(R) winner Reese Witherspoon and Corey Stoll. -- (C) Warner Bros.more
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some violence, brief strong language and drug use)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By: ,
Written By: Margaret Nagle, Shawn Linden
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 23, 2014
Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site


Ger Duany
as Jeremiah
Kuoth Wiel
as Abital
Peterdeng Mongok
as Young Mamere
Okwar Jale
as Young Theo
Thon Kueth
as Young Jeremiah
Deng Ajuet
as Young Paul
Keji Jale
as Young Abital
David Madingi
as Young Gabriel
Kon Akoue Auok
as Young Daniel
Sibusisu Moyo
as Young Simon
Antoine Wonder Kalam...
as Boy (River of Childr...
Afemo Omilami
as Dr. Monyang
Michael Cole
as Reverend Trutner
Vince Pisani
as INS Boston
Kim Banta
as INS Kansas City
Sharon Conley
as Erin Sullivan
Raj Kala
as Man In English Class
Parisa Johnston
as Sari Woman In Englis...
Heather Lyda
as Homeless Woman
Maria Howell
as INS Agent
Kenny Alfonso
as Police Officer
Berglind Jonsdottir
as Swedish Official
Israel Makoe
as Bracelet Soldier
Tiffany Jones
as Refugee Worker
Nat Ramabulana
as U.N. Worker
Lavine Dimo
as Guinea Worm Girl
Julia Ayiol
as Village Mother
Sope Aluko
as Processing Office Wo...
Suehyla El-Attar
as Immigration Official
Abena Ayivor
as Immigration Official...
Levi Burdick
as INS Official
Lele Ledwaba
as Food Worker
Mari Malek
as Party Guest
Flora Peter Deng
as Abital's Mother
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Good Lie

Critic Reviews for The Good Lie

All Critics (80) | Top Critics (23)

There's a sense that The Good Lie wants to say something profound but the message is as muddled as its delineation of history is.

Full Review… | October 26, 2014
Top Critic

The main characters are played by actual refugees-two of whom were child soldiers-and their uninflected, authoritative performances compensate for the feel-good simplifications of Margaret Nagle's script.

Full Review… | October 23, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A well-told tale that illuminates the experiences of the 20,000 "lost boys" (and girls) of Sudan, with such grace, insight and humor, it can be forgiven a few simplifying liberties taken in the name of moving the narrative along.

Full Review… | October 16, 2014
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Strong performances from Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany and Emmanuel Jal ensure that the characters of Mamere, Jeremiah and Paul are never reduced to "exotic" victimhood.

Full Review… | April 26, 2015
Observer [UK]

A Unesco educational resource cast in the style of an unreconstructed 1970s sitcom.

Full Review… | April 25, 2015
Irish Times

The bond between Carrie and these "lost boys" makes for a sincere, simplistic and poignant tale.

Full Review… | April 24, 2015
Daily Express

Audience Reviews for The Good Lie

A pleasing film that pulls at the heart strings.

Film Crazy

Super Reviewer

The Good Lie may go a little off the deep end with the fish out of water humor, but it succeeds at being a emotional and effective drama with great performances from the entire cast. It follows a group of child African refugees called who had to walk a thousand miles after their homes were destroyed, and 13 years later were brought to America. I thought the beginning of this film was a brilliant tale of survival, and the story that followed was them adjusting to life in America and it worked well because we see the differences between these two worlds and what we take for granted. Some will argue the film got too Hollywood, trying to make these men look like idiots who weren't even taught how to use a telephone before coming here, but if you ignore little things like this you actually have a solid and well directed drama. I very much enjoyed this movie, and I highly recommend it.

Bradley Wright
Bradley Wright

Super Reviewer


Historically, Hollywood has had the best of intentions when depicting a crisis in Africa, but has often felt the need to add a white Hollywood Star to the mix to be the eyes and ears of the story. Think CRY FREEDOM, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, or BLOOD DIAMOND to name a few. From the poster, one might think THE GOOD LIE, with its beaming close-up of Oscar Winner Reese Witherspoon towering over a trio of Africans trekking across a savannah, is of the same ilk. Fortunately, the ad is a "good lie", one intended to get butts in seats for a film in which Witherspoon's role takes a backseat to the compelling story of Sudanese refugees trying to survive a brutal Civil War.

Working from a screenplay by Margaret Nagle, French Canadian director Phillippe Falardeau tells the somewhat fictionalized story of "The Lost Boys", children orphaned by a religious war between the largely Muslim Northern Sudanese and the Christian Southerners. Depicted as less of a war and more of a full-scale attack, the lucky who would survive would walk on foot for as much as 1000 miles to refugee camps, such as one in Kenya.

The first act of THE GOOD LIE shows this terrifying struggle through the eyes of Mamere (Arnold Oceng), his sister Abital (Kuoth Wiel), brother Theo (Femi Oguns), and friends Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Jeremiah (Ger Duany). At the screening I attended, screenwriter Nagle confessed that through her 10 year effort to get this film made, she had to pull a few punches in this section. I'm sure the realities of this situation were way harsher than depicted, but enough is on the screen to stay with you when things shift dramatically to Kansas City. It is here we meet Carrie (Witherspoon), a job counselor charged with helping most of the above find work. Brought to the states by a Catholic charity, Mamere and company don't know what to make of this strange new world. By the same token, Carrie is addled by these immigrants and tries to keep her distance. Although her part is somewhat small, it's refreshing to see a woman who initially can't be bothered, grow to care. She's frosty and just too caught up in a life that needs a rude awakening. It's the journey many moviegoers will take.

The results are sometimes mawkish, but it's difficult to criticize something so well-intentioned. Nagle has the smarts to inject much humor into this story and gives our trio of guys distinct personalities and quirks. These are not perfect, noble men, but victims of post-traumatic stress who struggle to find their place in a world that seemingly doesn't have much use for them. The film is all about perception and shifting points of view. We, the audience, are way ahead of Witherspoon in our understanding of what pre-American life was like for these men, yet we're also ahead of the men in our understanding of things we take for granted here. One moment you're thinking how awful we are as a culture to waste food the way we do, and yet the next you're moved by our ability to be generous.

Each character is distinct, flawed, and highly believable. I rooted for them to succeed, and was heartbroken during their lows. Oceng anchors the film solidly, but Jal and Duany kept me emotionally engaged with their wildly different reactions to their new surroundings. This film is a gentle reminder that every person has a story.

This brings me to my struggle with it. There's no doubt that this is an important story that needed to be told. It's well-acted and has infinite twists and turns. It's smart enough to bring you in close and experience a life, a culture, and a struggle so different from the average westerner. I walked away with a renewed appreciation for sacrifice and acts of kindness. Yet...yet...yet...I wasn't crazy about the film itself. It took me a while to figure out why. It finally dawned on me that while this is a great story, it's not great filmmaking. Falardeau wisely stays out of the way and presents things very matter-of-factly, but it's at the expense of truly memorable or striking juxtapositions of sight and sound. Instead of allowing natural sounds to create a visceral impact, big moments in the film are given big score. In a scene where bodies float down a river, I thought about what a master Steven Spielberg was at showing this in his WAR OF THE WORLDS remake and couldn't help but compare it to the hyped up way it's done in this film. Masters such as Costa-Gavras or Roland Joffe (both of whom also used a white point of view in their films MISSING and THE KILLING FIELDS) would have put a more distinct directorial stamp on THE GOOD LIE. Falardeau, on the other hand, keeps things humming along, but with a somewhat bland, Lifetime movie quality. It's not bad. It's actually quite good. But in a welcome return to social filmmaking, which we hardly see in theaters overcrowded with superheroes and CGI cartoons, I was hoping for a stronger point of view.and CGI cartoons, I was hoping for a stronger point of view.

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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