Toronto 2019: White Lie

Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl) in White Lie. Courtesy of TIFF.

A university student gets caught in a White Lie about being diagnosed with cancer when her father outs her on social media.

There’s nothing worse than turning to crowdfunding to raise money because of a disease that you’re not facing.  On the one hand, it’s utterly disgusting to take money under false pretenses.  However, this is exactly what university student Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl) does in the film.  She would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for her estranged father, Doug (Martin Donovan).  We’ll get into this a little bit later.

This fake cancer battle also means that Katie, a dance major, is somewhat of a celebrity on campus.  People want photos with her and she even has her own hashtag.  While her father may have turned her back, she has everything she could ever want.  This also includes her relationship with girlfriend Jennifer Ellis (Amber Anderson).  Take the estranged relationship with her father into account and well, trouble comes calling when the bursary needs her medical records.  Again, there are no medical records because she’s been faking it the whole time.  She turns to other people in order to forge her records.  In any other universe, Dr. Jabari Jordan (Thomas Olajide) would end up losing his medical license.  It’s going to take Katie some $2000 to get forged records.  Another accomplice is Owen (Connor Jessup)

Even if Katie doesn’t realize it, every decision she makes is a drastic one.  For what it’s worth, this film takes place over the course of five days.  It may be one of the worst lies that anybody could ever tell but Rohl turns in quite the delivery.  When you realize an entire foundation on a lie, there is no sympathy or empathy to be found.  Maybe in another universe but not here.  Not at all.  While I can’t answer why anyone would want to do this, Katie makes decision after decision with lasting consequences.  Above all else, Katie has to work on damage control and make sure she doesn’t lose Jennifer in the process.

Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas have a solid grasp on what they want here.  Whether it’s in the performances or the shot selection, they take us on quite the journey.  I also think its good that they changed the outline from their original script and instead, they build up to the outing by Katie’s dad.  It’s a fascinating idea to explore especially when people are constantly getting shamed on social media.  The other thing about White Lie is that the film is shot on 35mm at a time when most filmmakers are turning to digital.  This isn’t something you see in most productions these days.  It certainly works for the film.

I don’t know what you’ll feel after viewing White Lie but you’ll certainly feel something.

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS:  Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas
CAST:  Kacey Rohl, Amber Anderson, Martin Donovan, Thomas Olajide, and Connor Jessup

White Lie holds its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.