Maud (Agnes O'Casey) has come into a considerable inheritance, yet because she is a woman and unwedded, her uncle Silas (David Wilmot) soon appears at her estate with his son Edward (Chris Walley) and daughter Emily (Holly Sturton) with plans of his own. As Silas begins to assert himself and brings in a French governess (Grainne Keenan), Maud soon finds herself at odds with her uncle and her family's dark secrets...
Unlike most of J. Sheridan LeFanu's work, 'Uncle Silas' - the inspiration for 'Lies We Tell' - eschews the supernatural and is more in keeping with scandalous family dramas. Yet, Lisa Mulcahy's direction and the general aura surrounding the movie make it feel like a kind of gothic tale of shadows and spectres. At every turn in the movie, you feel like there should be someone off to the corner, staring down the lens of the camera with haunted, ghostly eyes. Yet, 'Lies We Tell' is more concerned with the horrors of its period and how often it is that women are betrayed and gaslit by those closes to them.
Agnes O'Casey's versatility is such that she is able to convincingly play both sides of the character - an overly-confident heiress who knows her own mind, or a terrified woman marginalised by her family and society at large. Her scenes with David Wilmot are poised and tight like a drum, both of them trading barbs and snarling looks at one another with ease. David Wilmot is unerringly nasty in this, holding a brutal tyranny over the estate, his children, and his niece without the slightest notion of empathy. Chris Walley, primarily known for his comedic work in 'The Young Offenders', gets to display his formidable talent here, demonstrating a flair for thoroughly unlikeable characters. Likewise, Holly Sturton and Grainne Keenan are equally unlikeable - yet for many different reasons.
'Lies We Tell' is somewhat limited in its scope however, and falls into somewhat familiar tropes, though that may essentially be the point - that women speaking and naming their torment is met with the same kind of scorn then as it is now. Much of 'Lies We Tell' is experienced with your lungs in a vice. Elisabeth Gooch's script sharpens the dialogue, cleaving away enough of the original short story and honing it to a fine point on which the performances balance. Lisa Mulcahy's direction is equally direct and unencumbered, with a real sense of style and cinematography to it, all of it misty fogs and candlelit dinners adding to the forgotten world these characters seem to inhabit.