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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

"We didn't know that the world was big, that it was different from us."

When Mamere, his friends Jeremiah and Paul, and his sister Abital were little, all they knew was their tiny village—a collection of dirt-floor huts and a livestock pen or two. But then the war came. Their families were killed by soldiers. Their huts burned to the ground. And as they hid and barely escaped with their lives, this group of frightened, weeping children was suddenly made aware that there was indeed something else out there.

And sometimes that something is horrible.

Now, more than a decade later, the makeshift family these children have formed is heading toward another something that's big, different, but this time hopefully good: a place called America. It's all part of a resettlement effort that plucks handfuls of the homeless, dubbed "Lost Boys," out of thousands in the refugee camps, giving them hope for a new beginning.

All of them are grateful. Together they praise God for His blessings. And even when they learn the sad news that Abital must go to a village called Boston while they head to one called Kansas City, they stay positive. "I will go to school and work very hard," Mamere promises his sister. And they vow to reunite soon.

America is indeed a strange but wonderful place. It's a land of cars, busses and huge buildings full of individual … huts? Each room has a switch on the wall that causes lights to shine in the dead of night. "Phones" ring out alarms of some urgent need, but the brothers aren't sure of what quite yet. There are tubs that fill with warm water, large enough for a man to sit in and clean himself. And there not a single lion to be leery of, even in the open pastures.

In this land of plenty there are also white people who give of themselves to help. Carrie is one such person. She is helping the three Sudanese transplants find "jobs." And she helps Mamere begin school so that someday he can be a doctor. She's a wonderful woman who can survive on her own, even without a husband!

Mamere is impressed with her great skills. Jeremiah and Paul both agree that they should give her the vaunted name of Yaardit—which in English translates, roughly, to "Great White Cow."


Positive Elements

The men mean this, of course, as a term of respect. And though some of their fish-out-of-water actions are played for a laugh, it's the first-world-vs.-third-world cultural differences that are chuckle-worthy, not the men themselves. Mamere and Co. are always portrayed as sincere, earnest, appreciative and godly: individuals who deserve help and respect as they shoulder their burdens of adjusting to this new world.

In fact, it's Carrie and some other Americans, such as Jack, her boss, who come off as a tad callous at times. But that changes as the cultural barriers fall. Carrie eventually becomes so attached to the guys that she goes quite far out of her way to help them circumnavigate yards of governmental red tape and reconnect with Abital.

These Sudanese guys are always ready to help one another and those around them—from pooling resources to send Mamere to school, to offering orange slices to strangers on the public bus. When they first head to America, Paul gives his shoes to a friend who remains behind. Jeremiah gets a job in a local market and begins giving away old discardable food to the homeless rather than throwing it out. He quits the job when his boss complains about what he's doing, saying, "'Tis a sin not to give to those in need." When the guys first meet an American police officer, Mamere quickly tells him, "We appreciate any person who puts his life at risk to uphold the law. God bless you."

As children, Mamere and his friends struggle mightily—sharing whatever they find, binding one another's wounds and even carrying the weak when needed—in an attempt to get as many as possible to a place of safety. Forced to drink urine to stay alive, they still give a dying man some of what little gathered food they have.

During his studies of Mark Twain's writings, Mamere learns about "good lies," untruths told to help others. He realizes that as children, this is what his older brother Theo did to save him. Theo stood up and lied about who he was—getting taken away by vicious soldiers in the process—in order to protect the others who were hiding. Ultimately Mamere makes a similar choice to sacrifice his advancement for another family member's well-being.

Spiritual Content

As the children trek, they carry a Holy Bible as their most treasured possession. They pray as they go. They thank God for what little they have. They read Scripture over a fallen comrade. They meet a boy along the way who wants them to talk to another about God's word. The other kid relates to the story of Moses who "does magic with water." He then demonstrates his own skill to draw water out of the desert ground.

As adults, the refugees continue heaping praise upon God for His blessings. Near the end of the film, Jeremiah speaks from the pulpit in his church. He also refers to the "Lost Boys" moniker that the refugees wear, saying, "I don't think we are lost. I think we are found."

Sexual Content

When we first meet Carrie, she's sitting on the side of a bed with a guy dressed only in a towel lying behind her. (It's obvious that they have a casual relationship that regularly involves sex.) He hands her a bra that she forgot to put on before she leaves.

Then, after being picked up by Carrie at the airport, Jeremiah spots the tossed-aside bra in the backseat of the car. He wonders at the purpose of the frilly thing. After standing in line for hours at a government office, Carrie finally cries out, "Who do I have to screw around here to see a g--d--n immigration supervisor?!"

Violent Content

The deadliness of war is the most wince-worthy aspect of The Good Lie. We see open and bloody wounds, savage scars, dead villagers slumped over one another, helicopters shooting missiles, huts being set aflame, dead bodies floating down a small river, and soldiers shooting adults and children alike as they run screaming through the fields.

For all of that ugly evidence of war, however, it should be noted that those horrors are presented with as delicate and restrained a touch as one could hope for. Death and destruction are present in glimpses and glances without feeling overly vivid—allowing viewers to fill in the worst with their imaginations if they so choose.

In America we see Paul getting angry and violent. He's arrested for pounding on a public telephone. He and Mamere get into a fight, wrestling on the ground and battering each other. (Mamere ends up with a swollen eye.)

Crude or Profane Language

We hear Americans blurt out things like "bulls---," "a--hole" and "h---" (once each). God's name is misused three or four times, once in combination with "d--n."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Carrie drinks beer, and her apartment is full of discarded cans. She and a woman from a local "faith-based church charity" get drunk on beer and shots of tequila. A guy puts booze in the punch at a party.

Two of Paul's American co-workers ask him to ease back on his hard work ethic and get him to smoke a joint. At first Paul appears to really enjoy the drug's effect. But it's made clear the marijuana completely changes his personality … for the worse. Mamere and Jeremiah both wonder what's happening as their brother becomes more angry and isolated, and it's while he's stoned that he's arrested for his violent outbursts.

Other Negative Elements


Early on in Carrie's struggles to find her Sudanese charges jobs, her boss, Jack, flatly warns her, "You can't get involved in these people's problems." But even with all their thick-skinned American cynicism firmly in place, neither Carrie nor Jack can help but eventually be drawn into the men's lives and come to care about them.

Not only are these culture-shocked transplants earnest and endearing, but director Philippe Falardeau makes sure to appeal to our sympathies all the more by taking us through the trauma of their childhood. We watch as they survive the massacre of their village and form a makeshift family. We marvel as they carry and coax one another over hundreds of thirsty and starving miles to refugee camps in Kenya.

In that way, then, The Good Lie becomes two films.

It's a well-made piece of entertainment with just a few violent and boozy rough edges. A pic that demonstrates love, endurance, compassion and self-sacrifice, causing us to smile as we watch Mamere, Jeremiah, Paul and Abital forge a new life in their adopted homeland.

And it's also a teaching experience. Much like the 2006 award-winning documentary God Grew Tired of Us, this drama grabs Americans by the collar, stirs our emotions and gets us thinking about ongoing struggles in the world outside our borders. It's a thoughtful and compelling cinematic nudge to maybe rearrange a priority or two. And it'll leave you thinking, "I wonder what I can do to get involved in these people's problems."

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