‘The Lie’ Review: A Child’s Crime, a Parental Conspiracy

About two-thirds of the way into this English-language remake of the 2015 German drama “We Monsters,” Jay, a divorced dad who has the pinging cellphone of a (presumed) murder victim in his possession, screams to his ex-wife Rebecca, “What do you want from me? I made one mistake!”

This line provides the only (inadvertent, to be sure) laugh in this humorless, woebegone, overwrought exercise in bourgeois cinematic misery-mongering. Because boy, oh boy, up to this point Jay has made a busload of mistakes, and really dumb ones at that.

Jay and Rebecca, played by Peter Sarsgaard and Mireille Enos, are discontented in divorce (he’s a hipster musician, she a buttoned-up-and-down lawyer), with a problem child, Kayla. Joey King, considerably less bubbly here than in “The Kissing Booth,” the 2018 release that made her a sensation, plays Kayla.

After she admits to pushing her frenemy Brittany into a river, probably killing her, Jay and Rebecca improvise an increasingly ugly cover-up. Particularly despicable is the way they try to shift suspicion for Brittany’s disappearance onto her father, a single dad of Middle Eastern origin.

Directed by Veena Sud, who also wrote the adaptation, this is a whiffed effort at an all too familiar subgenre: the ostensibly dark, searing human drama undercut by the fact that all the humans in it are boorish idiots.

Up to and including its cheap shock ending, “The Lie” invests all its meager stock in the facile, simple-minded idea that depicting banal, outwardly genteel people behaving abominably sheds a profound light on human nature. Nope.

The Lie
Rated R for language, themes, violence. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on Amazon Prime Video.

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