On Fri., Sept. 19, 2014, Reese Witherspoon brought her new movie “The Good Lie” to Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre. The 38-year-old Nashville native wore a flattering embroidered floral dress as she walked the red carpet with her mother, Betty.
In “The Good Lie,” Witherspoon plays a harried and somewhat uncaring employment agency worker helping relocated Sudanese refugees find jobs in U.S. Orphaned by the brutal Civil War in Sudan that began in 1983, these young victims, predominantly Christians from the southern Sudan, traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety, fighting off the elements, animals, soldiers and constant thirst, and loosing many children along the way.
The Deng children set off on this journey after their family is slaughtered, carrying the family Bible with them. One by one, they lose the younger children and eventually join a group of hundreds of children trying to find food and shelter. The oldest brother, Theo, senses soldiers as the caravan of children leaves a river, and he coerces his siblings and two other boys into crossing the fast-moving river. As the children cross, they hear shots and the screams of their former traveling companions.
The Lost Boys
The young survivors finally find a haven in a refugee camp but not before losing Theo. Over the years, the refugee camp slowly becomes more of a prison, but the Dengs and their friends take comfort in their faith and their sense of family. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort lottery brings 3600 lost boys and girls (out of hundreds of thousands of refugees) to America to start a new life.
Arriving in the U.S., Mamere (Arnold Oceng), his sister Abital (Nyakuoth Wiel), and their extended family Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) are shocked to learn Abital will be sent to a host family across the country. Already having lost other siblings on the cruel trek across Sudan, the loss of Abital in a strange country weighs heavily on the brothers, especially Mamere who is the chief of the small clan after his older brother Theo sacrifices himself to save his siblings.
Sent to a strange city, the four boys must overcome almost impossible cultural differences to learn how to get jobs and live successfully in their new home assisted by the distracted Carrie Davis (Witherspoon) and charity worker, Pamela Lowi (Sarah Baker). But as Carrie begins to discover how ill prepared the boys are for life in America, she begins to research the Sudan, and what she learns about the plight of the orphans changes her attitude.
“The Good Lie” Movie Review
“The Good Lie” is a tremendous movie about loss, hardship, sacrifice and courage. It is a moving portrayal of war, survival, deep faith and redemption. The film balances the tragic with humor and inspiration.
Reese Witherspoon is in her element in a role that is a departure for her as a hardened, no-nonsense woman. Sarah Baker is a delightfully ditzy as the good-hearted aid worker.
But the Sudanese cast, which includes Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, and newcomer Nyakuoth Wiel, make the movie what it is. Duany and Jal were children of war, part of the cross-country trek, and even child soldiers, and both Oceng and Wiel are the children of Sudanese refugees. This adds depth and credibility to the surprisingly good acting from the newcomers.
Arnold Oceng (Memere) on Faith
At the screening, I had the opportunity to talk with Arnold Oceng (Memere) about the message of faith in the movie and asked if the cast brought that same deep faith from the Sudan to America with them. “Oh, yes, it is a movie about faith” replied Oceng. “Me, my family, we are Christian. We have a deep faith. This movie — this cast — it is all God. He has brought it all together.”
“The Good Lie” is well worth a full-price ticket. It is a beautiful, triumphant film with a twist that will move even the most cynical viewer.