movie review in St. Anthony Messenger
Catholic moral theology teaches that it is never acceptable to lie. It also teaches that there is no such thing as a “good lie,” so the title of the film is unfortunate. But it is in literary reference to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, as the film demonstrates.
During the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005), thousands of boys and girls were orphaned when their parents were killed. Some of them were recruited to be child soldiers; others marched hundreds of miles to a refugee camp in Kenya.
Roughly 4,000 of these children were allowed to resettle in the United States. This is the story of four of them: Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), and Mamere’s sister, Abital (Nyakuoth Wiel). The boys, now young men, are sent to Kansas City, sponsored by a church group, but Abital must go with the other girls to Boston.
Carrie (Reese Witherspoon) is assigned to find jobs for the boys, but she is thoughtless and has no sense of the culture shock they are going through—at first. Paul, especially, has a hard time adjusting. When news comes that their home village’s chief, whom they thought was dead, has shown up at the camp in Kenya, everything changes— especially for Mamere. He became the chief of their tribe at that time and must make things right.
The advertising of The Good Lie puts Witherspoon in the forefront, but the film is really about these brave young people from Sudan. It is a story of bravery told with humor and humanity.