Dir.: Mitu Misra; Cast: Gabriel Bryne, Sibylla Deen, Jn Uddin, Harvey Keitel,Mark Addy, Reece Ritchie, Emily Atack, Danica Johnson, Harish Patel, Harvey Virdi; UK 2017, 109′.
First time director Mitu Misra tries, perhaps too hard, to construct a complex narrative that leaves too many loose ends to be convincing.. On the other hand, Misra offers a vey honest portrait of the underbelly of the Pakistani Muslim community in Bradford.
When crime lord Demi Lamprose (Keitel) dies, his chauffeur and general dogsbody Donald (Bryne) has to clear his luxury flat, forcing his fledgling solicitor lover Amber (Deen) to move out immediately. As Donald, Byrne rocks his signature hangdog look: estranged from his wife after the death of their daughter Amy, he gets involved with Amber, who has a troubled past -and present, for that matter. At sixteen she was forced to marry her cousin KD (Uddin) in Pakistan, and he is now a high profile gangster in Bradford. Having raped Amber, he tries to marry her 16 year old sister Miriam (Johnson), whose parents are only too willing to give her away, since the bounty from the marriage will cover their debts. It also emerges that Amber was pimped out to by her father to Lamprose for the same reason. When Lamprose’s son Nathan (Ritchie) wants to ‘inherit’ Amber from his father, Amber’s troubles get out of hand. She successfully disrupts KD and Miriam’s marriage – and KD goes on to marry his pregnant girl friend Emily (Atack), whom he abuses, bloody revenge killings conclude this saga.
DoP Santos Sivan steers clear of bleak social realism and instead uses shadows and innovative angles for his noir images. The nightlife, ‘sponsored’ by KD is from another planet compared with the tradition of Amber’s family, both parents clinging to a religion they have great difficulty in following. Ambers’ workplace is cold, clean and white, a place she somehow finds comforting. Perhaps seedy KD is a little bit over the top in his nastiness, but Misra coruscating portrait of organised crime and this male-dominated culture, fed from both second-hand western macho images and Muslim religiously motivated misogynist ideology, feels very real. There are some great performances, particularly from the reliable Bryne and Deen, and in spite of structural difficulties, LIES WE TELL is always gripping. In the end, the brutal honesty of Misra’s arguments outweigh the flaws of this convoluted chronicle. AS
ON RELEASE FROM 2 FEBRUARY 2018