White Lie originally debuted at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 but will be getting a digital streaming release in January 2021. Starring TIFF rising star Kacey Rohl, she plays Katie Arneson, a young dance student raising money for her cancer treatment whilst also hiding a lie – she’s not really sick.
When we meet Katie, she’s been successfully faking her diagnosis for some time, becoming a heroic figure around her campus through her fundraising and brave battle. When a university bursary requires her medical documents, she finds herself backed into a corner as she desperately tries to hold her lies together.
It’s an impressive film held together by a strong performance from Rohl who has been working steadily in the network tv area for a number of years. I first encountered her in a recurring role in Arrow where her abilities outshone the small role she was given, so it’s wonderful to see her be given the opportunity to fully flex her muscles in a complex role such as Katie. It would be easy to craft her as a monster or someone to pity, but Rohl and screenwriters Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas tread this line carefully keeping us on our toes as the audience somehow finds itself rooting for this narcissistic mess of a young woman.
With a compressed timeline of only a handful of days, we see the beginning of the end for her and her lie. As things start to unravel throughout the runtime, the camera becomes more intense, focused and at times claustrophobic as she feels the mounting pressure coming from all sides. We’re able to see the lengths at which she’s willing to go to keep up her delusions and at times question how much she may believe them herself. She’s desperately needy and attention-hungry but underneath all of this, Rohl shows us flashes of Katie’s fragility. She needs to have cancer – who is she without this purpose, this battle? At times it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for her.
Excellent pacing makes up for the thinner patches within the script as does Rohl’s performance. The ending feels as abrupt as the start and is the weaker element of the film – much like the lead character the film doesn’t quite know where it’s going and so keeps digging right until the last frame. Which perhaps may be the point, when you’ve told a story so convincing, how can you stop?
A decent film with a remarkable performance that’s definitely worth a watch.
See all photos >>