It’s a very British film, with a very British mentality
The trick with any mystery, is to sew enough seeds into the story so the eventual reveal can be predicted, but does not sit predictable. In reality, most dramas fail to find this balance, either flicking one way or the other: giving away too much, or leaving the twist underdeveloped so it doesn’t hit as hard as it possibly could. The Good Liar, Director Bill Condon’s first outing since 2017’s Beauty And The Beast, has a strange mix of both, without finding that balance. Too much of the film relies on small, minor hints towards its final scenes, without making it in anyway a guessable outcome.
Roy Courtney (Ian McKellan), an ageing con man living in London, uses all manner of tricks to fool anyone he can out of their extra cash. After meeting Betty (Helen Mirren) on a dating website, Roy discovers she holds an enormous fortune he is desperate to get his hands on.
With its ultimately unsatisfying ending, The Good Liar does seem somewhat like ‘fuss over nothing’. It never expresses the importance of the past, or where the characters are headed, despite boasting a hefty run time. Too much of the piece is focused on small moments that develop and alter perceptions of its lead characters, rather than giving the mystery a really unhinged edge.
Aside from that, with leads of McKellan and Mirren there was no doubt that the piece would offer at least strong entertainment value, and with the nature of McKellan’s character, there is certainly a lot of it, even if some of it feels particularly naff. It’s a very British film, with a very British mentality, and that naturally comes with certain boundaries and limitations.
The Good Liar really is about as standard as films come, and without taking steps to stand out, it won’t be a particularly memorable piece in years to come, but in the moment, and for now, it’s a film with genuine heart and a want to thrill, and that’s often enough to satisfy the majority of everyday film-goers.
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