Inspired by a true story, The Good Lie concerns itself with a group of children who escape their Sudan village when attacked by soldiers. Making the grueling trek to a safe region, the gang’s numbers diminish with the acting chief sacrificing himself to protect the last of the tribe and his younger brother (Oceng). The four survivors grow up in a refugee camp and are flown to the US where the boys – Oceng, Duany, and Jal – are separated from their ‘sister’ (Kuoth Wiel). Housed by Reese Witherspoon’s social worker, who helps the three find a job, the ‘brothers’ go about settling into the American way of life…
Kind-hearted this may be but The Good Lie has problems. The humour is cheap and condescending. Like in Coming To America, the gang find the small things the first world take for granted: they don’t know what a phone is, light switches are a puzzlement, and because she’s so kind to them, the guys bestow the greatest wish on Witherspoon: that she find a husband quickly. And unlike the Eddie Murphy comedy, they are actually taken to McDonald's to chow down.
The acting can be less than professional at times (two of the actors were real immigrants and child soldiers) and what Witherspoon, toiling away in a supporting role, is doing here is anyone’s guess. And it’s far too soft and nice - take out the violence and Paul’s brief flirtation with marijuana and this looks and sounds like a Disney movie.
But in celebrating the kind side of humanity, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to root for the three ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’. Unlike the drab 2009 Oscar hopeful The Blind Side (that nomination still baffles in a year that The Road was ignored) it’s not a two hour happy ending - Falardeau’s drama comes up with enough drama and obstacles to cloud the outcome. Apart from being in an alien world and the problems that entails, there is the mission to locate their sister; supermarket worker Duany rubs his boss up the wrong way by feeding the homeless out the back door; troubled Paul falls in with drugs; and Oceng struggles to overcome the guilt of leaving his brother to die.