Jan 13, 2014

Review: "Lie with Me" is an Invigorating Take on Family Dysfunction

Lie with Me is a film that explores the power of honesty among the O’Shannon family. From the opening scene, which features a clue into their dark past, this film chooses to push boundaries and deconstruct relationships. It is disturbing, but rather effective in painting a complicated moment in Carla (Lisa Younger) and father Stan’s (Harwood Gordon) life which has festered in lies only to resurge during the final days of her dying mother (Karen Strassman). It paints a unique take on the family dynamic that unravels in perversely fascinating ways that is a challenging experience.
The film revolves around the O’Shannon sisters Carla and Susan (Rachel Marie Lewis) as they return home to some unwelcomed news. Along with Susan’s boyfriend Ian (Lawrence McEvoy), the story is an intimate portrayal of damaged love. Everyone has their demons and they all come out at inappropriate times. There is a lot of fighting and discussion of sexual histories that make the reserved, tense performances slowly evolve into a whirlwind of hostility. By the third act, the mystery shifts to revenge that adds weight to its somber ending.
It also helps that the performances are particularly strong. The most noteworthy is Harwood Gordon, whose strict behavior and closeted emotions is the film’s ultimate depiction of dark pasts. Even if he is bound to a wheelchair, his voice gives him power and when dealing with his two daughters, he almost feels menacing. The chemistry that he shares with Lisa Younger is compelling and helps to paint their incestuous back story as something that holds weight. Lawrence McEvoy serves as the audience’s gateway into this cryptic story, filming with a small camera a voyeuristic portrait of a family in tatters. He answers the questions, only to find the truths unpleasant.
The adaptation of the play by Keith Bridges is an impressive piece for the actors to show off their skills. It also allows for some creative shots from director Jamison Brandi. The most successful technique involves combining emotional parallels with split screens and low-cut angles. Scenes of frustration are often muted in order to create impact. There’s even incorporation of footage from Ian interviewing the O’Shannons in ways that feel gritty. As much as the story is about the narrative, the camera serves to add complexity to the feel and makes the overall experience more dramatic.
Set to music written by Indie Folker, there is an authentic rural sense to this film. Taking place predominantly on Stan’s farm, the house feels as Irish as the cast’s accents. With the soundtrack ringing of Celtic undertones, this story feels more personal with each meditative montage. The religious guilt lingers over the characters and the appearance of a minister (Peter Michael McGowan) who gives Stan some spiritual guidance only makes it feel more real. The film may tackle morals in specifically Catholic ways, but isn’t distractingly religious. The conflicts feel lived in and brings out the human experience in ways that makes the strangeness feel more compelling than repulsive.
It is the sign of an effective production that a story with as much eroticism and disturbing content can be executed in memorable ways. From the direction to the performances, this feels like a fully realized vision that manages to present the details in exciting ways. It allows the characters to progress the story and the struggles encapsulated inside while maintain their humanity. It is powerful in ways that transcend the disturbing elements by focusing on the psychological motivations more than the shocking premise. It gives the subject matter weight and leaves an unforgettable impression on the viewer.

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