UK Release Date: 2nd February 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Mitu Misra
Writer: Ewen Glass, Andy McDermott
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Sibylla Deen, Harvey Keitel, Jan Uddin, Mark Addy, Emily Atack, Gina McKee, Reece Ritchie
Synopsis: When his millionaire boss dies, a chauffeur is tasked with removing all evidence of an affair, which plunges him down a rabbit hole of criminality that puts his life in danger.
The world of Northern England doesn’t seem like the most obvious setting for a glossy crime thriller. It’s more well-known for the tender emotion of small-scale dramas like God’s Own Country or the searing polemicism of Ken Loach‘s back catalogue. However, the darkness of the criminal underworld now comes to England with Lies We Tell, in which debut filmmaker Mitu Misra crafts a wildly ambitious and tonally uneven tale that delves into a potentially controversial examination of Indian culture.
Misra’s first movie really swings for the fences in telling its story, which sees Gabriel Byrne as everyman chauffeur Donald, who has spent many years working for hedonistic businessman Demi (Harvey Keitel). After Demi’s death, Donald is asked to erase all evidence of an affair Demi was having with law student Amber (Sibylla Deen). The job proves to be more complicated than expected, when Donald becomes involved with Amber’s strict Indian family and her crime boss relative KD (Jan Uddin).
The ambition of Lies We Tell is simultaneously its greatest strength and its greatest undoing. Misra’s story takes on huge issues and has the bravery to talk about them in ways other films often don’t, but there’s also far too much plot for the running time. Its script is a leaky, lumbering construction that isn’t always easy to follow and struggles with pacing, leading to a saggy and rather leaden middle section. There’s also occasionally troubling characterisation, with one female character appearing in the third act seemingly just to be subject to a lazy threat of rape.
That said, there’s plenty of compelling material in the film. This is not least true of the performances, with Gabriel Byrne and Sibylla Deen proving to be a great double act. Deen, in particular, finds depth and nuance in a character with a complex life who manages to turn Byrne’s cosy, modest existence upside down. She’s a real star to watch in the future. The supporting players are enjoyable, with Game of Thrones alum Mark Addy and The Inbetweeners star Emily Atack proving effective even in their brief screen time. The biggest reward, though, was likely for Harvey Keitel, who was seemingly paid to spend a day semi-naked watching an attractive woman dance.
Misra deserves ample credit for Lies We Tell which, despite enormous flaws, is a dark British thriller that deals with unusual and difficult subject matter. It’s uneven and a little rickety at times, but it builds to a third act packed with genuine surprises and gut-punching twists in the tale. It’s a debut film that feels like a debut film, but Misra has all of the tools to become an intriguing voice in British cinema.
Pop or Poop?
Lies We Tell is a slightly messy and immensely uneven British thriller, but it’s one that is not afraid to deal with stark, troubling issues and has moments of real genius. Mitu Misra is an exciting filmmaker and, though there are tonal missteps and narrative issues with this movie, it’s one that deserves to be seen if only for its handful of stellar performances and enormous ambition across the board.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.