‘The Lie’ is an adaptation of the German film ‘Wir Monsters’ (English: ‘We Monsters’) that follows a husband and wife as they pull out all stops to cover up a despicable crime committed by their daughter. To prevent her arrest, the couple pushes their moral boundaries by violating the law and spinning a dense web of lies. Adapted by Veena Sud (‘The Killing’) the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 and dropped on Amazon Prime on October 6, 2020. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Lie Plot Synopsis
Kayla’s parents Rebecca, a corporate lawyer (Mireille Enos), and Jay (Peter Sarsgaard), a professional rock musician, are divorced possibly due to Jay’s infidelities in the past. The film starts with Kayla looking displeased at her parents’ respective relationships. Her longing for all of them to get back together as a family serves as an important motive to do what she does. When Kayla admits to murdering her best friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs), their world comes crashing down.
At first, Kayla comes across as a spoilt and impulsive teenager, who seems emotionally fragile after what she did. Jay and Rebecca work together to be there for their daughter and protect her future. The parents’ unconditional love soon turns to unthinkable heights of desperation and self-preservation. However, what seems like Kayla going through a difficult time trying to cope with the horrific act that she commits leaves us feeling a bit manipulated and betrayed towards the end.
The Lie Ending
After Kayla’s parents come face to face with Brittany, the whole plot spins on its head. We realize that Kayla’s parents have been pushed to commit a heinous crime – kill Brittany’s father, Sam Ismali (Cas Anvar), who was just worried sick about her because she did not come home for days. When Brittany sees them, they are cleaning the blood off their car, which they ran over Sam with. Rebecca goes up to Brittany to feel her in person to ensure that she isn’t hallucinating. Looking betrayed and broken, Jay and Rebecca go to find Kayla sitting in the living room as if nothing had happened.
Kayla breaks down and tells them that she played along with Brittany’s plan, who had devised all of this so she could spend the weekend with her boyfriend. But for Kayla, it became a chance to see her parents get back together. She confesses that she wanted to tell them the truth but needed more time so that they could “choose each other” and choose her.
For her, Jay and Rebecca spending time together were like the happy times in her childhood.Right at this moment, the doorbell rings, with someone pounding at the door – almost snatching away their moment of togetherness as a family. The film ends at this point, leaving the viewers to come to their own conclusion.
Abandonment and Attention
If you see closely, the film is about insecurities – the fear of being neglected and forgotten. It is about attention being taken away from you and shared with someone else. The beginning of the film establishes that Kayla doesn’t like the thought of her parents seeing other people. That seems to be the motive for her to supposedly push Brittany in the river because she feels that Brittany was flirting with her father.
This comes up earlier in the film when Jay doesn’t take Rebecca’s calls and Rebecca feels that she has been left all alone to deal with the problem at hand. In her conversation with her father at the frozen pool, Kayla tells him how no one notices her at school, hinting that she was jealous of Brittany for getting attention from everyone, possibly including Jay himself. At the end of the movie, Kayla breaks down in front of her parents with her last words in the film being, “Please don’t leave me. I love you.”
Kayla’s Mental Health
In the introduction shot of the film, we learn that Brittany had run away from home many times and clearly doesn’t hold her father in high regard. Throughout the film, when Kayla’s parents are bending backward to keep her safe, she doesn’t seem to take notice of the toll it is taking on them psychologically. She lets them go through it, whereas she enjoys what she always wanted – her parents under the same roof with their undivided attention on her.
Although on multiple occasions, Kayla makes it clear that she wants to be treated like a grown-up, her parents go to great lengths for the sake of her future because she is fifteen and “she didn’t mean it.” However, the twisted plan that the girls execute proves them far from innocent. The girls take note of small details and use them to pull off this “prank gone too far.” The bruise on Brittany’s face, her purse, and phone left by the river, using Jay’s past infidelities to feed the motive for Kayla’s actions, are all proof of this.
When Kayla lies to Detective Kenji (Patti Kim) about Sam hitting his daughter Brittany – she takes a dig at her father when he confronts her about it. She says that she learned from the “best.”
Jay even blames himself for Kayla’s mental health, along with the mess their family is in. He is unaware of Kayla’s self-injurious behavior that had started shortly after Jay moved out of their house.
Parents’ Unconditional Love
The unconditional love that parents have for their children is the focus of this film. How far are we willing to go to protect the ones we love? Even if it means that we go against our conscience and do the things we never thought we could. As the story progresses, the parents look more and more disheveled, reflecting their own state of mind and lack of attention to themselves. The unconditional love for their daughter makes them prioritize Kayla’s safety without putting their own actions under the microscope.
Kayla loves her parents and wants their attention but is not able to empathize with them. The web of lies she spun affects her parents to an extent; it makes them question their values, judgment, sanity, and even their humanity. Kayla doesn’t realize the depth of what she has done until she senses the fear of losing them again. Despite everything they went through because of Kayla, in the end, you see Rebecca and Jay hugging their daughter because they can feel her pain and insecurity.
Just at that moment, their guards come down, and they go from feeling betrayed to feeling love and affection for their daughter. We feel bad for Sam, who went through a lot trying to find his daughter and even got accused of things he did not do. Kayla admits that Brittany thought it would be “funny” if Sam thought his daughter was dead. They clearly misjudged their parents’ feelings towards them. Sam ends up paying with his life for his daughter’s resentment.
Rebecca blames Jay for the “spoilt little brat” that Kayla has turned out to be because he let her “get away with everything.” This becomes the point where Jay starts to lie even to Rebecca because he didn’t drive Kayla to her ballet retreat. When Rebecca learns the truth from Kayla, she is in disbelief that her daughter would do such a thing and, at first, dissociates herself from the fact that Kayla is her daughter.
As we reach the end of the film, we realize that the movie is not just about the lies that Kayla’s parents were spinning. It is called “The Lie” for one particular lie that initiated the avalanche of troubles – the lie that Kayla murdered her friend. As her mother puts it, “she wants to get caught.” Ironically, the thing that she seemed to be honest about was the very thing she lied about.
Read More: Is The Lie a True Story?