The Good Liar




An entertaining movie that has divided critical opinion.


 Good Liar, The

Sir Ian and Dame Helen


What we have here is a film with pedigree. For a start, it brings together for the first time on screen two notable veterans of British cinema, Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Ian McKellen. Its director is the American Bill Condon and it marks his fourth feature with McKellen following on from Gods and Monsters (1998) which brought the actor an Oscar nomination, Mr. Holmes (2015) which deserved to bring him even more awards than it did and that pleasing divertissement Beauty and the Beast (2017). The source material this time is a novel by Nicholas Searle and the adaptation is by Jeffrey Hatcher whose previous work includes the effective screenplay for the said Mr. Holmes. Consequently, it is fair to say that on paper The Good Liar promises great things. However, I saw it on the day of its release after reading a number of reviews of it. What was striking about them, but also puzzling, was the fact that some critics appreciated the film but that many others dismissed it in such blunt terms that it sounded like the worst movie of 2019. Because of this, I went to it expecting the worst but found to my surprise that I enjoyed it.


In joining those critics who like The Good Liar I should at once say that I am not suggesting that it is a great film or even in any real way a memorable one, but it is a confident entertainment. The story told here is a drama, one of a fanciful kind that is intended to intrigue. At the outset, the wealthy widow Betty McLeish (Mirren) uses computer dating and meets a charming man who claims to be a widower by the name of Roy Courtnay (McKellen). However, this is one of those films in which, as they say, nothing is what it seems. Betty appears to take Roy at face value and is soon developing a bond with him, but the viewer quickly regards this as ill-advised sensing that something is up, a fact even more apparent when before long intercutting reveals Roy as being simultaneously involved in a financial con game with his partner Vincent (Jim Carter).


Admirably paced by Conlon, The Good Liar carries one along with it. The tale is, of course, extremely far-fetched and particularly so towards the end. By then, however, we have given ourselves to the piece, enjoying the performances and hooked by the fact that for once we have a plot which as it moves from London to Berlin and back leaves us pleasurably unsure where it is taking us. It is all too unlikely to make for a film of distinction, but The Good Liar is so capably done - as an extra it has a typically able music score by Carter Burwell - that one emerges from the cinema entertained. No more than that can be claimed for it but, equally, no less.




Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Laurie Davidson, Phil Dunster, Aleksander Jovanovic, Celine Buckens, Michael Culkin, Lily Dodsworth-Evans.


Dir Bill Condon, Pro Bill Condon and Greg Yolen, Screenplay Jeffrey Hatcher, from the novel by Nicholas Searle, Ph Tobias A.Schliessler, Pro Des John Stevenson, Ed Virginia Katz, Music Carter Burwell, Costumes Keith Madden.


BRON Studios/New Line Cinema/1000 Eyes-Warner Bros.
109 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 8 November 2019. Cert. 15