There is not a universe where I would consider lying about a Cancer diagnosis in order to scam family and friends out of thousands of dollars as a harmless ‘white lie’. I feel safe in the knowledge that I must be in the majority here.
However, directors Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas made me face whether this kind of unforgivable fraud is just the stuff of fiction, banished to the world behind our silver screens. I might have to start running background checks on everyone just to be sure.
White Lie follows an unassuming university dance student, Katie (Kacey Rohl), who has a secret. She does not really have cancer, and you and I are the only ones who know about it. Look at every childhood fable ever written and you know that one little lie can quickly breed another and another until, like Katie, everything is spiralling out of control. Your instincts might tell you that a plot as dramatic as this one will leave you as a disgruntled film critic, repeating: “that just wouldn’t happen” over and over, hoping it will magically take you back to a time before you watched this forsaken film.
You would be wrong.
The story unravels slowly—perhaps too slowly in some parts, to the point that I found myself reaching for my phone once or twice. That being said, if it had not unfolded that deliberately and thoughtfully, it would have lost all of its suspense. It would not have felt so realistic or have me question why the heck I was rooting for a girl, faking her cancer diagnosis, to not get caught.
The film touches on the one burning question we have when someone fakes a diagnosis—‘why?’—but in a very considerate way. That is to say, it was not just brushed off with the same flippant excuse of “because she’s evil!” or the equally lame “do we really ever know what is going on inside people’s minds?”. It would make sense for Katie’s reason to lie to be just as complicated as her. There is a real person behind the fake sponsoring pages, after all. Through Katie’s relationships, we actually get to see that side of her: her fractured relationship with her father (Martin Donovan) and her safe and loving relationship with Jennifer (Amber Anderson). I’ll be the first to say that both of them deserved better than being scammed by Katie. However, their relationships with her and their desire to do right by her, at the very least, helped me to understand her better. Not to mention how refreshing it was to see a modern lesbian relationship treated so centrally, and without the copy-and-paste ‘coming out’ storyline.
Unsurprisingly, I was left with questions. Some were deliberate and infuriating and some were about minor plot holes that were equally angering. As the credits rolled down my screen, I could not help myself but fall into the rabbit hole of missing explanations, even attempting to fill in the blanks myself. Don’t worry, my fanfiction will be available soon. I can make allowances for exempting details for dramatic effect, especially if we can expect a sequel. However, there was something about the missing parts that made me wonder if it was less about not wanting to answer those questions, and more about not knowing the answers.
Don’t judge a film by the clichés. White lie unravels slowly, but is packed with outstanding performances and plenty of suspense and drama to tide you over in the New Year.
White Lie will be available for pre-order from 20 December and to stream digitally from 5 January 2021.
Words by Rebecca Carey
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