While plenty of us have been missing the moviegoing experience at theaters, there are plenty of cinematic gems to be found in the comfort of our homes via our favorite streaming platforms, including the newly released dramatic thriller White Lie, co-written and co-directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019, centers around the story of Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl), a college dance major hoping to be the recipient of an important scholarship. When informed that she needs to resubmit medical records for the scholarship, it presents a bit of a challenge, as Katie has one helluva secret: she’s been lying to family and friends about having cancer. Rounded out with a cast that includes Amber Anderson, Connor Jessup, Martin Donovan, and Thomas Olajide, White Lie is a gripping look at a character that is willing to go to, frankly, distressing lengths to prop up a lie for personal benefit.
What I liked about Lewis and Thomas’s approach to telling this story was the lack of ambiguity when it came to Katie’s lie. There’s no real guessing–audiences are in it as soon as the film opens with the character quietly shaving her head. When the film cuts to the university where a hallway is adorned with “Fight for Katie” posters and there’s a fundraising table ran by her friends, there’s a greater sense of how invested Katie is in her lie. However, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. By the time Katie realizes that she’s going to need fake medical records, there’s no turning away from the screen. Her lie is unequivocally awful, yet the co-writers crafted a genuine curiosity about how Katie is going to try and pull off securing the medical records.
And how it all eventually plays out is not for the faint of heart.
For audiences to truly buy into Katie’s story, it starts with Rohl. Her performance in the film is admirable as Katie bounces between personas that are sweet and a little bit unassuming yet absolutely audacious. Tasked with creating emotional turmoil–not just Katie’s, but the audience’s as well–Rohl proves to be up to the challenge as her character continues to raise the stakes for herself with lie after lie over the course of a few days.
Driving home further feelings of anxiety and overall dread as the story unfolds is the fantastically ominous score composed by Lev Lewis, who also serves as the film’s editor. As Katie continues to make decisions based on her desperation to keep up her ruse, she doesn’t necessarily seem to fully recognize the harm she’s leaving in her wake. Instead, the audience is left to mull over everything as it happens with heightened emotions.
For a film that deals with such intensely infuriating deceit, what could have potentially been a solely frustrating watch is presented in such a manner that you don’t want to look away. White Lie is captivating storytelling at its finest and a strong offering at the top of 2021.