The Trouble With the Truth

Two people revisiting their long-ago marriage over dinner should—in theory—make a better stage play than a movie, but John Shea, Lea Thompson, and writer-director Jim Hemphill defy this beautifully in The Trouble With the Truth. There isn’t a false note in either the dialogue or the performances. The characters as written and played have such intricate backstories, such complicated mixtures of motive, that their evening grows uniquely, movingly suspenseful. Shea is a musician so loyal to his art that he has blocked off every good opportunity life has sent his way—marriage to Thompson foremost among them. He is just defeated enough to see this and regret it, admirably without self-pity. She is a successful novelist who comfortably owns the stable post-divorce life she has built for herself and her daughter by Shea. Yet his fierce commitment to his goals sings to a passion she hasn’t felt since he left. Hemphill has perfect pitch when it comes to where to place the camera: There are close-ups and moments of cinematic irony so right (fleeting beats of regret or acquiescence that we see but the characters cannot) they would be impossible to bring off on stage. The suspense becomes erotic. We can imagine these star-crossed divorcees might end up in bed—they’re imagining the same thing—but a key to this film’s wit and wisdom is that, as in life, anticipation doesn’t make a thing inevitable. Few things are scarier than a dream that threatens to come true. F.X. Feeney

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