Calvin Thomas and Lev Lewis have been at the heart of the burgeoning Canadian independent film scene over the past few years, with their 2018 film Spice It Up serving as a kind of summation of the movement’s interest in the intersection of performance and real life, balancing insider satire with a solid emotional core. White Lie, though, is a step toward conventionality, with a cast of professional actors in a psychological thriller about a young woman deeply invested in faking that she has cancer. Katie (Kacey Rohl), a student and dancer, has run this scam for some time, using it to solicit donations through social media and even get herself a starring role in a ballet, which appears to be about her illness. The film follows her for a harrowing couple of days as her lie begins to unravel, tracing the increasingly desperate ways in which Katie attempts to maintain said lie. This basically plays like a straight version of a Seinfeld episode, with Katie as the Costanza at the center of it all, barely afloat atop a sea of deceit. Thomas and Lewis make little attempt to explain Katie’s motivations, though there are some vague hints. We’re left to speculate about why she lies, an ambiguity which might be to the film’s benefit, but it makes her a difficult character with whom to sympathize. She’s neither a charming con artist nor a particularly pitiable figure, just a person compelled to play every angle she can, no matter the consequence.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 4.