Verdict: The McKellen-Mirren chemistry is as twisted as it is magnificent.
Directed by Bill Condon, The Good Liar is a cinematic adaptation of Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name. The film boasts of a mind-numbing number of twists and by that virtue, it is pretty easy to spoil it. You’ve been warned.
What’s The Good Liar About:
It’s 2009 in Britain and Estelle and Brian are chatting with each other on an online dating service. They decide to meet for dinner and both coyly reveal that their real names are, in fact, Betty (Helen Mirren) and Roy (Ian McKellen). While Betty simply wants a companion after her husband’s passing, Roy seems to be smitten by Betty. As they grow more and more fond of each other, Betty’s grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) has his reservations about the charming Roy. He suspects that Roy is after Betty’s wealth that’s valued upwards of £ 2 million. Stephen’s suspicions are not ungrounded as Roy is indeed a con man with a murky past (and present). Roy has scammed many with the help of his man Friday Vincent (Jim Carter) and he plans to do the same to Betty. While we should be worried for her, there’s something else going on in the shadows that we get to know only as the movie reaches its end.
While the open-ended climaxes have their sweet spot in cinema, the cut-and-dried type of ending can be terribly satisfying. The Good Liar’s story arch follows a meticulously written script so as not to leave any loopholes and it is stunningly successful. It invokes a feeling of impending doom and you, as an audience member, can never really say you truly know what the characters are up to. The narrative keeps you on a leash and you’re committed to figuring out the truth.
Needless to say, Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren are magnificent and they both bring their polished talent and finesse to the film. Their nuanced performance is one of the main reasons why this thriller is so successful in keeping you hooked. With a crisp runtime, The Good Liar wraps up its act respectfully without unnecessary drama. Everything in the film happens for a reason and it’s grossly satisfying to see everything come together in the end.
What Could’ve Been Better:
While the pace of the film could’ve been slow by design, you may get impatient after a certain point to know the reality/truth. The film seems to lack a clear structure, which can seem distracting and a bit confusing. A few cinematic liberties with logic and numerous layers of misdirection make the film slightly clunky.
Why You Should Watch:
When two of the finest British actors, Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren, come together for a film with a curious premise, the question of why you should watch the film becomes a rhetoric one. The Good Liar absolutely has to be on your watchlist. It’s thrilling with flawless performances and has an old-school charm with its clear, satisfying ending.