Current Issue #479

Film Review: The Good Liar

Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen star in producer/director Bill Condon’s psychodramatic character piece, and it’s perhaps a little surprising that they agreed to be involved in something so dark

Dame Helen and Sir Ian (in his fourth film for Condon, beginning with Gods And Monsters) are, of course, excellent here, and there’s a lot of twisty wit in Jeffrey Hatcher’s script (drawn from Nicholas Searle’s novel), as well as a slightly nasty edge. Older, more sensitive audiences be warned: this is no sweet Richard Curtis comedy or romantic Merchant Ivory tale.

In London back in 2009 we see a widow (Helen) and a widower (Ian) signing up on the ‘Distinctive Dating’ website, and when they finally meet, each reveals that they’ve been using fake names: she’s Betty and he’s Roy. They click quite nicely and there are further dates, including a screening of Inglourious Basterds, which Roy finds unsettling due to its rewriting of history.

When Roy’s bad knee flares up, Betty generously agrees to let him stay at her new home, much to the annoyance of her suspicious grandson Stephen (TV veteran Russell Tovey from Doctor Who, Being Human and Years And Years). A holiday in Berlin is then planned and Roy only gets closer and closer to Betty, and that’s increasingly concerning, as we’ve been shown right from the word go that he’s a master conman, and he’s trying to get his hands on her money, with help from his old criminal colleague Vincent (Jim Carter).

Helen and Ian’s first film together (although they’ve previously appeared as a double-act on the stage), this has an especially complex and even unpleasant performance by him, but she’s no slouch too, and it’s good to see Tovey holding his own in scenes alongside these two ‘national treasures’.

And yes, as Helen’s Betty would say, “It’s so English!”

Reviewer Rating
7/10

The Good Liars (MA) is in cinemas now

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