I was starting to feel violent. I was running late to a screening of the movie “The Good Lie” and made the mistake of relying on Boston’s archaic transit system to get me there. I should have taken an Uber car but the app wasn’t loading properly on my iPhone’s new operating system. When I reached my stop at last, I walked as briskly as possible to the movie theatre while trying not to perspire too much or spill my now cold Starbucks chai latte. So far the day sucked and I felt more like getting a stiff drink than seeing a movie.
When I walked in the theatre, the lights were already dimmed and the good seats were taken, except for one located in the center of the middle aisle. So I had to be that guy and squeeze past the legs of half a dozen people to get to the seat. As the movie started, I thought perhaps a two-hour escape from the day’s stress could be just what I needed. But when the movie was over what I felt wasn’t relaxed but overwhelmed. Seeing the movie gave me some much needed perspective and proved to be the most important thing I would do that day. The story of “The Good Lie” is based on Sudan’s 22 year second civil war that killed millions and displaced millions more. In the film, brothers Theo, Gabriel, Mamere, Daniel and their sister, Abital have to flee Sudan after soldiers kill their parents and burn their village to the ground. They set out on foot on a long and treacherous trek to Ethiopia where they hope to find a safe haven. The hardships they incur and atrocities they witness on their journey are unfathomable and jarring. And while most viewers can’t adequately grasp the circumstances in the lives of these Sudanese refugees, there is definite universality that everyone can relate to. That’s because the movie is ultimately about the bonds of family and the human spirit. It’s about our primal instinct to survive and our evolved altruism to help others in need. It’s about gratitude for small gestures of kindness that can have a substantial impact. It’s about perception, contextualization, and reflection.
I was surprised about how much it gave me pause. I was struck by how immaterial material possessions suddenly felt. I was alarmed by how myopic I had been within a more meaningful macrocosm. I was overcome with an urge to call my siblings just to hear them and reach out to my parents just to thank them. I was surprised by how much thought this quiet movie invoked. And because of all those reactions, combined with the caliber of talent involved in the film, I was ultimately surprised by how quiet the marketing for this movie has been.
The film stars Reese Witherspoon, giving one of her most authentic performances yet, alongside brilliant actors who were actual Sudanese war refugees. The masterful screenplay is impeccably written by Margaret Nagle, seamlessly directed by Phillippe Falardeau, and produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Yet, despite such impressive names, I knew little about this movie beforehand and most people probably haven’t even heard of it. A film that could easily be a serious contender for multiple awards is getting very little notice and that’s a huge marketing fail.
Perhaps it’s typical of the Hollywood machine to ignore movies like “The Good Lie” as it’s anything but a typical Hollywood movie. But in the age of superhero mega movies and overly maudlin, contrived teen love stories, there’s still an audience that wants to see a movie that’s a smart, well-crafted story; a movie that conveys an ambitious message with emotional subtlety; a movie that narrates an extraordinary tale of events better than any history lesson or news coverage ever could. This is such a movie. So if you want to see a movie that makes you think about your life in relation to the lives of others, and shares a story of remarkable humanity, then see “The Good Lie.” If movies like this can receive wide reception, perhaps Hollywood will take note and develop more stories that matter.
Farsh Askari currently lives in Boston, where he is a research and staff associate at Harvard Business School. He received his bachelor’s from UC Santa Barbara and his master’s from Harvard. He writes a blog about his past struggles with severe OCD.
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