Jeremiah: They call us the lost boys of Sudan. I don’t think we are lost; I think we are found.
At first glance, THE GOOD LIE, looks like a blatant attempt to recreate the success of the Sandra Bullock hit, THE BLIND SIDE, for Reese Witherspoon. A feisty, white, American woman comes to the rescue of a few Sudanese refugees and makes their lives infinitely better than they ever would have been, if not for her help. Fortunately, THE GOOD LIE is not this movie, thanks in great part to the considerate direction of Canadian, Philippe Falardeau (MONSIEUR LAZHAR), who chooses not to make this film about being saved but rather about saving one’s self.
Knowing full well that much of his audience would not be familiar with the civil war that began in Sudan in 1983, Falardeau starts his story then. We are introduced to a group of young children who, until their village was ravaged by gunfire and soldiers, did not know that the world was any bigger or any more advanced than what they saw happening around them. After their escape, they walk nearly 800 miles to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they spend the next 13 years of their lives. While the camp does provide safety and shelter, it is hardly living. Then one day, they win a lottery to be immigrated to America. Once there, the makeshift family, or tribe, is put to a number of tests as they adapt to a new society and try to maintain the values they grew up with, while also healing the traumas of their childhoods.
Unlike Falardeau’s first outing, MONSIEUR LAZHAR, this new film is not as direct in its intentions. Once the “lost boys” have crossed into the USA, we are given a number of fish out of water scenarios to be consumed as amusement, when in reality, there was nothing at all amusing about their journey. Witherspoon has more of a supporting role here, as a job placement agent, who eventually takes a more vested interest in the boys (some of whom actually are children of war in real life) when she realizes that they more or less have no one to guide them. The restraint in her performance is refreshing, but it is not enough to hide the fact that the central plot is not fleshed out as much as it needed to be in order for THE GOOD LIE to be great.