Eleanor McSherry checks out Lies we Tell at the Kerry Film Festival.
This screening was in the largest screen of the cinema, cinema one. There was a very large crowd, as expected for this one, so seating was at a premium. The audience was very mixed, which was good to see. The film was introduced by Maeve McGrath Kerry Film Festival’s hardworking Artistic Director, and Andy McDermott, the film’s producer and writer, they both expressed her joy at the film being screened.
Directed by Mitu Misra, Lies We Tell introduces us to Donald, a man in his 50s, who is a salt-of-the-earth-Yorkshire-man. When his billionaire boss, Demi, dies, Donald is tasked with destroying evidence of his ‘other women’. But Donald doesn’t account for the effect meeting Demi’s hauntingly beautiful 26-year-old mistress Amber will have on him.
Despite trying to keep Amber at arm’s length, Donald has to collude with her to delete a sexy video that would implicate his boss and mean certain death for Amber.
Donald embarks on a journey that leads him face-to-face with Amber’s notorious gangster cousin KD. He discovers Amber was forced to marry KD when they were sixteen, and after being raped by him she risked hell by lying to get an Islamic divorce, leaving both sides of the family devastated.
Now fully qualified as a lawyer, Amber is set to escape to London when the bombshell hits: KD is to marry her naive sixteen year-old sister, Miriam. But soon, we realise it’s part of KD’s twisted plan to win back the love of his life, Amber. The only woman he has ever wanted.
Nursing his own tragic past, Donald is compelled to help Amber, and is dragged deeper into a world of hypocrisy, betrayal and ultimately murder, leaving an honest man broken’.
I will admit from the beginning this is not a world that an Irish girl would know very well or have much access to; it is alien to us and the set up of the film was well executed so that we were led into this world one step at a time. While we have access to British television and the internet, we really don’t often see the diversity of British culture in this way. Its level of social realism was excellent, though often to the point of being unbelievable. I don’t like reading too much of other people’s criticisms or views on a film as I usually don’t agree with them. For me, what’s important is, is the story great, are the characters believable, is it shot well and do I feel something. This film ticked all of those boxes.
The film is boasts a stellar cast with Harvey Keitel, Gabriel Byrne and Sibylla Deen, with Mark Addy and Jan Uddin. Sibylla was wonderful as the main character, Amber, who is a very western girl with a traditional Pakistani background. She was so believable as a successful trainee lawyer who was trying to go places but caught by her traditional background. This is such a contemporary dilemma. There was plenty more revelations to the character’s story but I will not ruin the film for you. In one way you could say that we should not be shocked by what happens to her but in another we should be, as this still goes on in this day and age.
Gabriel Byrne, for me, is such a fantastic actor that we should see more of on our big and small screens. His portrayal of Donald, Demi’s (Harvey) professional driver and reluctant friend, was amazing. Maybe it’s because I’m Irish but I really could feel everything that Donald was going through and sympathised with his dilemma. The other characters were also good but it was the relationship between Amber and Donald that really drove this film home.
Mark Addy, who played Donald’s brother-in-law Billy, he deserves a special mention as we just did not see enough of him and he really was wonderful every time he appeared on screen. He really made the best of such a small part. I loved his character and would have liked to have seen more of him but that’s just me!
The production values were excellent, considering the amount of paperwork and cost involved in so much location shooting. Cinematographer Santosh Sivan did well to capture the wonders of the city, and its seedier sides in contrast with the rural location for Donald’s home. With a first time feature director, Mitu Misra, there would be a fear that there will have been massive over-budget runs, difficulties and clashes of personalities on set but this did not seem to have been the case here. It also must have been difficult to face the issues like, arranged marriages, abstinence from alcohol, yet indulgence in narcotics in the playgrounds of the young, in the film having grown up around this community.
Bradford and Leeds are the setting to the film which was a refreshing choice of location, going to one of the heartlands of the Pakistani community in the UK. There should be more filming in this part of the UK and it was good to see the diversity and choice of rural and urban locations available there. This is something that should be noted also here in Ireland.
The storyline was hard-hitting and did not shy away from topics that they knew might seriously offend. It was excellent to see that they did not take the easier route and tie everything up in a nice bow, which is harder to do nowadays. Having spoken to Andy, at the festival, I know that an awful lot of work had gone into the story to make it as real and authentic as possible and it really shows. If they had gotten government financial support would they have been able to tackle these issues, I think not.
It is one of those kinds of films that has to be seen to be believed, my review is only one opinion. I would highly recommend it though that you go along, with an open mind and a willingness to see what it’s really telling you about this world. Gabriel Byrne had a very telling remark about this project, he said “the subject matter is most original and unique, the culture clash between the Asian and the Western perspective of the world.” For him, “that’s very relevant and pertinent in today’s world.” We also have to support more independent films or else we will lose them. Their biggest strength is story and real character development that is, at times, lacking from the more expensive movies. They also tackle hard-hitting issues which few blockbusters do now. So get out there and see this film and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Lies we Tell screened on Saturday the 21st of October, 2017 at 7.15pm in Cinema Killarney as part of the Kerry Film Festival
Further information: http://www.bifafilms.co.uk/