FOR some strange reason, Winnipeg filmmakers seem to be the only ones willing to explore a dramatic premise few other filmmakers will touch. Sean Garrity's 2010 drama Zooey and Adam was a drama about a man undone by the fact that his child may have been the biological product of a rape.
Winnipegger Shawn Linden's The Good Lie attacks the same scenario from the perspective of the child, now grown.
Cullen Francis (Thomas Dekker, who played John Connor in the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) is in mourning after the accidental death of his mother (Julie Le Breton) when he learns the truth about his parentage via a VHS tape stashed in her closet. She confesses on camera, with baby Cullen in her arms, that she had been raped and nearly murdered by a man named Rose, who was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for the crime.
Cullen is devastated and launches his own investigation into the present whereabouts of his biological father. Meanwhile, Richard (Matt Craven), the man Cullen had called dad, sets off in desperate secondary pursuit of the young man he still considers to be his son.
This narrative thread is interwoven with what looks like a completely different movie. Cullen and five of his friends go on a camping trip where, as tradition holds, each is obliged to tell their own campfire tale.
The stories are essentially ludicrous. A veterinarian acquires a taste for his own flesh. A pregnant nun is believed to have experienced an immaculate conception until the birth reveals the unlikely source of the pregnancy. A group of Russian lumberjacks go to extreme lengths to prove to one another who's toughest.
It is, to say the least, a curious framing device that tends to undercut the seriousness of the primary narrative, instead of merely providing comic relief.
But given a minimal budget, Linden has pulled off an impressive second feature film coming after his weird, existential noir thriller Nobody (2007). Campfire tales notwithstanding, The Good Lie offers a pretty compelling story that hooks us in no small part due to solid performances by Dekker and Craven.
Mostly shot in Montreal, this is nevertheless a worthy calling card feature for the Winnipeg filmmaker, whose career trajectory promises to move ever upward.