Sunday, October 18, 2020

NewFest Spotlight: White Lie

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from the 32nd Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, NewFest. The festival runs October 16th-27th, 2020, and films are available to watch anywhere in the United States during that time.

White Lie
Directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas
Ticket Information

It’s easy to get caught up in the fallout that comes from one simple untruth. Saying or asserting something that isn’t quite correct is often done without much forethought, and certainly without a plan for the implications that it might have should it be taken as more impactful or serious than it was intended to be. Keeping up appearances and maintaining a misperception can be complicated, and a mistake along the way is entirely possible. There comes a point at which going back can no longer be done, and trying to turn something that was never real into history is an arduous and usually insurmountable task.

Katie (Kacey Rohl) is a star at her college, known as a sympathetic student standing up to cancer. She has a great relationship with her girlfriend Jennifer (Amber Anderson), and is warmly accepted by Jennifer’s family. But when Katie needs to come up with medical forms to document her illness for a grant, her confidence begins to falter since she isn’t actually sick. Going to her estranged father (Martin Donovan) for money to pay off an unscrupulous doctor proves to be a grave mistake, as he sees right through her, intent on exposing her façade. Katie scrambles to forge the paperwork she needs before her entire life comes crumbling down around her.

The festival’s description of this film as a “heart-racing lesbian character-study-turned-thriller” piqued my interest and motivated me to watch it. Interestingly, Katie’s identity as a lesbian is the most authentic and unfabricated thing about her. She faces no adversity during the film as a result of her sexual orientation, and Jennifer is entirely supportive of her at every turn. Katie has gotten herself in over her head in large part because she didn’t trust the right people, and therefore she can’t possibly depend on someone who doesn’t actually understand who she is.

It’s precisely that sense of panic and the dread that comes with realizing that she never thought the truth could come out that keeps this film going. Rohl captures her frantic sensibility, keeping herself focused enough not to do anything especially stupid but too committed to the lie to see a way out. Anderson is a great foil, someone who has such passion for her partner that audiences know will eventually erode once she even begins to doubt the veracity of one of the keystone points of their relationship. This film never quite reaches the point of truly becoming a thriller, but it should keep viewers on the edge of their seats, conflicted about whether to root for a protagonist who has dug her own grave.


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