Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surviving the Sudanese Civil War

Forget Reese Witherspoon; it's the story of war and its ramifications that matters.
Although sometimes burdened by a by-the-numbers approach, The Good Lie tells an important story about a group of young Sudanese refugees trying to start new lives in the U.S.

I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from seeing The Good Lie, primarily because it humanizes the consequences of a tragic civil war that raged in the Sudan from 1983 to 2005. The movie also boasts a level of sincerity that's almost startling when compared to most movies.

Reese Witherspoon, who plays a woman assigned to helping Sudanese young men find employment in the U.S., is the only recognizable face in a movie that's at its best when she's not around.

Nothing against Witherspoon, who doesn't show up until the picture has been running for 45 minutes. She's fine, but the story of how these young people -- emblematic of some 20,000 refugees in all -- fled their village, hiked hundreds of miles in search of safety, languished in refugee camps, and ultimately developed into war-scarred young adults is far more interesting.

Canadian director Philippe Falardeau (Monsieur Lazhar) introduces us to two brothers (Arnold Oceng and Femi Oguns) and their sister (Kuoth Wiel). We also meet another set of refugees (Ger Duany and Emmanuel Jai).

Oceng's character becomes the group's leader after his older brother makes a sacrifice that saves the other kids from being taken captive.

When the Sudanese refugees reach the United States, they're forced to split up. The boys -- young men by now -- are sent to Kansas City. Wiel's character is assigned to a Boston family.

Once in the U.S., much of the story depicts the cultural adjustments demanded of young men who have grown up in refugee camps and who know little about American life. It's all a bit predictable, but the plight of these youngsters -- drawn from real stories -- lingers.

The Good Lie may not be quite the powerhouse that was intended. It tries to raise the emotional stakes with a last-minute development that seems overly contrived, but -- at minimum -- reminds us that not all refugee stories ended happily in Kansas City.

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