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The Good Lie

Thank you to Alcon Entertainment for sending us this film to review!

I knew nothing about this film when I sat down to watch it, other than the title, which intrigued me.  Telling a lie is rarely a good thing.  Depending on the circumstances a single lie can contain the power to completely destroy your life, not to mention collateral damage caused to others.  Other lies, commonly referred to as "white lies" are generally considered unharmful, focusing on keeping social interactions civil or inoffensive.  "Does this dress make my bum look too big?"  {Slight pause - often without even looking at said dress or it's effect on one's spouse's bum} "NO! Of COURSE not!  You look great!"  The repercussions of a "white lie" may be minor (like having an annoyed spouse for an evening), but that does not mean telling one is "good."

So what kind of lie is a good one?  The film answers this question brilliantly: The kind that saves other people's lives at the risk of your own.  A couple of biblical references to this come to mind immediately.  The most notable is in Exodus Chapter 1 where Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt sees his slave population growing more numerous than his ability to effectively control.  His solution: infanticide.  All baby boys of the Hebrews are sentenced to death by exposure.  Well, the midwives (ladies who are in charge of overseeing births, like Lamaze coaches and nurses combined) take issue with Pharaoh's solution.  But what's a powerless midwife to do when faced with the choice between disobeying the ruler, who will execute you for disobedience as callously as he kills babies, and doing what they know to be the righteous thing?  You lie.  The midwives tell Pharaoh that the Hebrew ladies are so tough that they pop those baby boys out before they even get there.

Woman, "Honey, my water just broke!"

Man, "What do I do?"

Woman, "GET THE MIDWIFE!"

Man, "But... if it's a boy, Pharaoh said,"

Woman, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW!"

Man, "Alright! Be right back! Hang on dear!"

Man runs down the street, frantic, to his Lamaze coach's house, retrieves her, and they run back.  He is gone a total of fifteen minutes.

Man, "Honey, the midwife is here!"

Woman, "You lazy bum!  You took too long!  I had to push this little guy out all by myself!  It was ten whole minutes of agony!"

Man,"Sorry Lamaze, but I guess we don't need your help today.  Sorry for waking you up at two in the morning."

So, the midwives tell Pharaoh a reasonably obvious lie, one which is almost unbelievable.  But, the Bible says that Pharaoh was duped by this story, and that God BLESSED the midwives for lying... or rather for telling a good lie.  Not good as in believable, effective, or clever, but good in intent.  A lie intended to save the lives of the Hebrew baby boys, at the risk of their own lives.

Many other examples of such lies could be made.  Examples of this are plentiful during the Holocaust for instance.  "The Good Lie," tells a story of one such event during the Second Sudanese Civil War.

In this story, several Sudanese children are orphaned after their village is massacred. They are Theo, the oldest and their leader, his younger brother Mamere, their sister Abital, and two other villagers Paul and Jeremiah.  They band together and make a long journey through the desert enduring hardship, dodging the rebel forces, and nearly dying until they reach safety in a refugee camp in Kenya.  Along the way Theo tells a good lie.  They are stumbled upon by the enemy soldiers while the group was sleeping in the plain.  The leader's younger brother Mamere is seen briefly before he hides in the grass.  In order to save his younger brother, Theo stands up and surrenders to the soldiers.  He is hauled off by them, and presumed killed, but the soldiers don't find the rest of his group because he lied and told them he was alone.

Years later, these youths are among 3,600 refugees selected for resettlement in America.  The four remaining survivors of their village petition to have them all stay together since they are basically family.  Once in America, they are told that they have to split up and their sister Abital is sent to Boston, while the three surviving boys must make a new life in Kansas City. 

Together, Mamere, Paul, and Jeremiah must adjust to a new and different culture, go to school, get jobs, and try to reconnect with their sister even as the emotional pain of losing Theo haunts them.  Mamere, who feels responsible for his brother's presumed death learns of a good lie in school from a literature class studying "Huckleberry Finn."  In that instance, Huck tells a lie to save Jim from slave hunters.  This example of a good lie inspires Mamere and helps him realize that the guilt he is feeling is not right.  It was not his choice, it was his brother Theo's.  The lie that Theo told to save him and the rest of his group was a good one to tell.

Overall, the film was moving, gave the viewer an emotional connection to the characters, and presented the historical atrocities of the Sudanese Civil War in honest terms.  The actors who portray the Sudanese refugees are all actually Sudanese refugees who became actors (as opposed to the machinists and grocery store clerks they become in the film).  The American actors are Reese Witherspoon who plays Carrie Davis, the boys' job placement agent and Corey Stole who plays Jack, Carrie's boss.  Both of these characters are initially apathetic to the plight of the Sudanese refugees, but eventually help them adjust to American culture and by the end of the film they adopt a sympathetic posture towards their situation.  

Carrie's change is the most abrupt.  When first introduced to her, she is abrasive and unlikable, selfish, and easily put-off by anything that remotely inconveniences her.  By the end of the film she orchestrates reuniting the boys with their sister Abital by sponsoring Abital to live in her own home.  The self-sacrifice she makes in order to help those three boys was extremely uncharacteristic of her early character and clearly represents the change that occurred in her heart to cause her to help the people that were previously just an annoyance to her.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence, language and drug use.  I would concur that it deserves a PG-13 rating based on those factors.

I enjoyed the film a lot, and would recommend it if you like dramas, or movies with a positive message of self-sacrificial love.


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thomasccreech on Friday, 22 May 2015 04:57

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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