Lies We Tell is the model definition of a kitchen-sink melodrama. Not only does it exhibit all of the genre’s key features — British, working-class setting; a narrative heavy in social realism; a disillusioned, male protagonist — but it throws in everything but you-know-what in its 109-minute length.
Gabriel Byrne plays the longtime driver of an American businessman (an all-too-briefly-glimpsed Harvey Keitel) who gets roped into the life of his boss’s Muslim mistress (Sibylla Deen) after the businessman dies. It seems the mistress, who’s studying to be a lawyer, comes from a lowdown neighborhood where the resident drug kingpin (Jan Uddin) is not only her cousin but her ex-husband who raped her when she was a teen. While she obviously wants to get out of there, she keeps getting sucked back into that hell, especially when her ex is out to make her little sister his new bride (never mind about that white girl he already knocked up).
Yeah, there’s a lot going on in this movie. We haven’t even gotten to Byrne’s character and his problems (quietly mourning the loss of his dead daughter, making sure any evidence of his boss’s affair doesn’t land in the hands of his boss’s shitty son). As much as director–co-writer Mitu Misra wants to show the oppression and repression that still have a stranglehold on Muslim communities in Britain, he does what a lot of first-time filmmakers do their first time out — he overplays his hand. From the storyline to the score to the climactic reaction shots to the purposely head-scratching ending, Lies We Tell is crammed, histrionic, and way too damn much.
Lies We Tell
Directed by Mitu Misra
Opens February 2, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 2, 2018