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TIFF: White Lie

Katie (Kacey Rohl) is sick. But not in the way everyone thinks she is. She’s become a sort of celebrity on campus thanks to her fundraising campaign #Fight4Katie, which aids her public battle with melanoma skin cancer. The problem is Katie doesn’t actually have cancer. She goes through an elaborate scheme to forge medical documents, fake medication, and pretend to go to weekly chemo treatments. She shaves her head daily, eats little and takes medication that will make herself look sick. Katie will go to great lengths to keep up the ruse. Not only is Katie fooling the donors who are contributing money to her campaign, she’s also lying to her girlfriend Jennifer (Amber Anderson) who has been a steadfast companion. She’s been alongside Katie through her journey even when Katie holds her at arms length. Like all big lies, cracks appear. Her father Doug (Martin Donovan) has seen this all before. When Katie’s mom committed suicide, Katie faked illness to skip school. Doug doesn’t believe Katie’s cancer diagnosis and he’s ready to reveal the truth on social media. Can Katie keep up the lie or will she have to face some harsh truths?

Directed by Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, White Lie is a taut and compelling drama that offers only harsh realities. Why does Katie lie? We don’t know. It could be for fame, for empathy, or to fill some void within herself. This film doesn’t try to judge its protagonist nor does it try to explain why she does what she does. It takes a step back and lets this unreliable character tell us her story. I love that this film offers no real answers and the ending is not what I wanted nor what I expected. For a film about a big lie, this felt very true.

Kacey Rohl delivers a powerful performance as Katie. You can’t help but hate the character and be fascinated with her at the same time. I enjoyed seeing Martin Donovan, in an albeit small role, as Katie’s dad. 

If you’re like me and you’re fascinated by people who lie, especially when they go to great lengths to do so, then White Lie is a film you must see.

White Lie had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival as part of the TIFF Next Wave program. Check out my interview with the directors here.

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