What would you do to cover up a lie?
When their teenage daughter confesses to impulsively killing her best friend, two estranged parents make a desperate attempt to cover up the horrific crime, leading them into a complicated web of lies and deception.
In Amazon’s The Lie, a divorced mother and father find themselves trapped in a living nightmare when their daughter confesses to murder in The Lie, a gripping psychological thriller about the lengths parents will go to in order to protect their child. While driving his 15-year-old daughter Kayla (Joey King) and her best friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs) to a weekend retreat in the dead of winter, Jay (Peter Sarsgaard) pulls over to the side of the road for a quick bathroom break. Although the two girls enter the surrounding woods together, only Kayla returns, admitting she pushed Brittany off a bridge into a rushing river. Terrified she could be sent to prison, Jay and his ex-wife Rebecca (Mireille Enos) cover up Kayla’s crime with a web of lies and deceit. But the truth won’t stay buried, and as one mistake leads to another the desperate parents discover that what actually happened in those icy woods is more shocking than they imagined.
The Lie is written and directed by award-winner Veena Sud who has earned a reputation for creating riveting, atmospheric crime dramas, including the acclaimed series The Killing and Seven Seconds. In The Lie, she has constructed a chilling and utterly believable portrait of a divorced couple who band together in a frantic effort to protect their teen daughter from the consequences of her own actions.
“As a parent myself, I was really fascinated by the idea of how deep a parent’s love goes — and how quickly the veneer of civilization drops away,” says the filmmaker. “Over the course of a few days we see these two parents, who think of themselves as good, moral people, let go of every sense of goodness.”
At the same time, the film explores larger, societal themes, including the way immigrants and people of color who are victims of crimes can quickly be viewed as suspects, as when Kayla’s (white) parents try to incriminate Brittany’s South Asian father Sam in his daughter’s disappearance. “I was really interested in how in our criminal justice system an innocent person can be perceived as the perpetrator because of the color of his skin,” says the Canadian-born Sud, who is of Indian and Filipino descent.
The Lie also reflects the disparity in the value society places on the lives of children of different races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, according to the filmmaker. “In that way it’s a microcosm of our history as a country — and also clearly our present day as a country.”
What makes The Lie exceptional is you get to see these tough conversations about what you would do if your child did something wrong.
Shot in Toronto in the middle of a blizzard, The Lie uses snow as a literal metaphor. “The weather served as the perfect backdrop for a story about a family hiding a secret and not talking about what really has been going on for the last few years,” says the filmmaker. “My DP Peter Wunstorf and I were fascinated by the idea of shadows, of what light looks like at night, what daylight looks like in the middle of a terrible family incident. Gloom. Stylistically, The Lie lives in places of quiet and silence.”
Underneath the beauty and hush of the newly fallen snow lie dark secrets of a family that has never acknowledged the pain of its own dissolution.
The director chose to shoot the film in a house whose walls are made almost entirely of glass, despite the challenges it presented in terms of lighting and reflections. “One of the best things about the house is the walls inside are slightly curved, so something feels slightly off about it,” Sud says. “I was interested very much in a house that initially starts out as this place of beauty, that lets in light and the gorgeous neighborhood they live in, and eventually becomes a cage, a prison — a place where everyone can see what’s going on inside.”
One of the director’s favorite scenes to shoot was the one in which Kayla is trying to escape from Sam, Brittany’s father, who is desperate to know what has happened to his daughter. “She is trapped in her own house, alone,” describes Sud. “The windows into the backyard are clear, but the windows at the front of the house are frosted, which creates a sense that maybe she can hide. But then Sam comes and puts his hands on the glass and leans in. It’s just such a terrifying, visually incredible moment, to know that inches away, through a glass that is just barely opaque, is a man who’s demanding the truth from you.”
Sud is drawn to stories like The Lie because she is fascinated by worlds that push us to the extremes of our existence. “At heart, I think all of them are love stories. Whether it’s love for a child, love for a partner who becomes a friend, love for a community, an ideal, a principle, or justice. Ultimately in all of this darkness is the light of a love story.”
“We’re at a time when we are redefining who we are as a nation: what we stand for, what we believe in” she says. “Our screens, big and small, tell the world who we are and what we aspire to become.”
“It’s an honor to be on Amazon,” she adds. “Streaming has opened up the world to many stories that have traditionally not been told. I’ve had the great privilege of being at the beginning of this revolution in content, and what I’ve seen is not only more people at the table who deserve to be at the table in terms of diversity, but also seen an elevation in and an appetite for good, diverse storytelling.
The Lie is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.