How far will you go to protect your child? It’s a question so often explored in television and film that it’s become a subgenre in its own right. It’s also the central conceit at the heart of the new Blumhouse thriller “The Lie.”
The film begins with a father, Jay (Peter Sarsgaard), driving his teenage daughter, Kayla (Joey King), to camp when they see Kayla’s friend, Brittany (Devery Jacobs), waiting for the bus and decide to give her a ride. Shortly thereafter, Jay finds his daughter standing on a bridge, staring into the icy waters below, alone — her friend nowhere to be found. First, Kayla says Brittany fell; then, she confesses that she pushed Brittany after an argument. What follows is a pair of parents (Mireille Enos is terrific as King’s mother) desperate to cover up their daughter’s tracks and evade first the missing girl’s father, and eventually a pair of increasingly suspicious police detectives.
Which brings me back to the opening lines of this review — we’ve seen this story before — and oftentimes, it’s presented in a much more compelling manner. Director and co-writer Veena Sud, who adapted the film from the 2015 German thriller “Wir Monster,” does a fine job hitting the traditional beats of a domestic thriller: an angsty teenager and divorced parents forced to revisit marital strifes as they work together in an isolated, snow-covered, suburban town. “The Lie” has the potential to be a chilling character study, but the film’s moments of genuine tension are few and far between. I’ll give credit to the central trio of actors; Enos and Sarsgaard’s parental despair is palpable. Joey King, when given a few standout moments, delivers a strong performance, but we know so little about this mysterious Kayla and what drives her that even an actress as gifted as King can’t deliver us a central character worth caring about.
Ultimately, a set of very good performances isn’t enough to elevate a script that leaves behind very little context and nuance and too many underdeveloped characters and plot lines in its wake — what we are left with are flat, one-note characters making decisions that don’t make any sense, with motivations that remain frustratingly unclear. I’ll even go as far as to admit to being shocked by the film’s final twist, but that is not enough to make up for the fact that everything that comes before it is wholly unoriginal.
“The Lie” isn’t going to be a horror classic, but if you’re looking for a perfectly fine, often melodramatic, sometimes spooky thriller to cozy up to on a chilly October evening, “The Lie” should do just fine.