From the mind of young filmmaker Kabir McNeely, a young teen is forced to confront certain realities surrounding the death of her ex-boyfriend in The Lies We Tell.
Our tale opens with an argument between teen lovers, Andy (Eimara Eris) and Jaden (Cougar Karson), who subsequently break up. Jaden is so distraught he commits suicide by jumping off Andy’s apartment balcony. Months later, she is still unable to shake off his death but has managed to move forward.
Andy’s mother, DeAnn (Catarina Kim), decides to throw a party, inviting her friends and family. The first to arrive are Andy’s closes friends, to whom she reveals that she is dating again. To everyone’s surprise, Andy comes out as bi-sexual. Naturally, this news does not go over well with her mother, who is irate that Andy’s chosen such a public event to disclose her sexual orientation.
With the party underway, Andy engages with her friends and deals with typical adolescent conflicts, micro-aggressions, and bullying. Soon the party takes a sudden drastic turn when the circumstances behind Jaden’s suicide are revealed, as witnessed by Andy’s brother, Spencer (Kabir McNeely).
The first thing you’ll notice with The Lies We Tell is that it is a DIY thriller from an aspiring young filmmaker. It would be unfair to judge the film against a multi-million big studio production or even a multi-thousand dollar project of independent outlets. The quality gap is vast, and McNeely made the most of what little he had. He had a camera and a cast of friends ready to help bring his script to life.
“…distraught from the break-up, he commits suicide by jumping off her apartment balcony…”
Story is the great equalizer when it comes to indie vs. big Hollywood, and The Lies We Tell has a good backbone. The tale centers on Andy’s relationship with her controlling mother as they both are still dealing with loss. As Asians, our parents came to this country for a better life, and no parent wants to see their sacrifice squandered by their children.
I have a great appreciation for the dialogue and acting. It appears many of the lines were improvised by the cast. I love that it comes across as authentic in the way teenagers talk. It rarely feels like a steady stream of rambling. My only issue is that I would have liked to have seen many of these conversations tightened up, edited down, and flow in a more cinematic way, focusing on telling the main story.
However, The Lies We Tell is far from a perfect film, and a few technical and story elements keep it from being a cohesive story. I’ll point a few things out, knowing that McNeely will make more films in the future. The biggest problem is sound. It’s inconsistent in terms of volume levels, so much so that it’s hard to hear dialogue at times, especially when actors are not speaking loudly and enunciating. The hardest part of DIY filmmaking is camera coverage. Often the camera is set in a single location, and the acting is all done in one shot. Sometimes only one side of a conversation is covered, and the other side is off-camera, which adds to the sound problem. Having done some DIY short films myself, coverage and editing is the most laborious part of making a movie, but it’s a necessary evil.
The Lies We Tell is not a perfect movie and may not be for everyone, but it’s a definite good first feature effort by McNeely, who made a ton of shorts before this. If he can learn some lessons from this outing, his next film should be that much better.
"…great appreciation for the dialogue and acting."