A Bradford International Film Associates film, released in 2017
Directed by Mitu Misra
Story by Mitu Misra; screenplay by Ewen Glass and Andy McDermott
Cinematography by Santosh Sivan
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Sibylla Deen, Harvey Keitel, Jan Uddin, Mark Addy, Gina McKee, Reese Ritchie
Filmed on location in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England
The truth can kill
A trusted driver must deal with his dead boss’s Muslim mistress, her dark past pulling him into a life-and-death showdown with her notorious gangster cousin/ex-husband. –IMDB
An unflinching British thriller about loyalty, betrayal, and revenge. When his billionaire boss Demi dies, chauffeur Donald is given one final job – to wipe out any evidence of Demi’s relationship with his mistress, the enigmatic and beautiful Amber. Donald’s task soon unravels when Amber’s life is threatened, and he finds himself her reluctant protector. Unwittingly drawn into a dangerous urban underworld, he encounters dark, harrowing practices and a sinister underworld figure who will test him to his very limits. –Rotten Tomatoes
From the Byron Bay, Australia, Film Festival blurb on “powerfully relevant dramas from around the globe”
Lies We Tell, on the other hand, is pure fiction, a dramatic “story” from contemporary life.
Fiction, however, located firmly at the crossroads of cultures in cities such as Leeds, where it is dangerous to get caught standing in the middle.
A brilliant young lawyer, Sybilla Deen, crosses that intersection routinely – traveling between a traditional home-life, a multi-generational family of Pakistani origin, where arranged marriages are customary, and the Western professional world, with its contemporary undercurrent of colonialism.
Exposure of her modern Western lifestyle threatens to ostracize her from her community and even endangers her life, and the lives of her vulnerable younger brother and sister.
Similarly caught is Gabriel Byrne, in a wonderfully subtle playing of Donald, the dogged and hyper-loyal driver to fat cat Harvey Keitel; left to “tidy up” after his boss’s unexplained death, which includes his mistress, the conflicted Ms Deen.
Donald, a salt-of-the-earth Yorkshire man, is drawn reluctantly out of his shell, and way out of his depth, to protect her from criminals and predators on both sides of the cultural divide, and from her own unhappy past. He is drawn not only into a culture he doesn’t understand, but a dark criminal world whose casual cruelty is even more baffling.
A passive individual, crushed and subservient, he steps up when his affections and outrage at injustice are pricked, and takes some action.
Demi: The only men who get caught are those who don’t love their wives enough.
Donald: I’m Donald. His driver.
Amber: Why are you here? Where’s Demi?
Donald: Mr. Lampros is dead. He died suddenly.
[Amber is concerned about incriminating videos on Demi’s phone]
Donald: If they’re deleted, then you don’t have a problem.
Amber: Yes, he normally deleted them. This one was special to him.
Amber: I can’t go in there dressed like this. Can you just pop your head in and see if he’s there?
Donald: I’m not gonna pop my head in there!
Nathan [Demi’s son]: Who is she?!
Donald: I don’t know what you expect me to say, sir.
Amber: What do you think he’ll do, Donald?
Donald: It’s just a girl dancing on a video. He doesn’t even know who you are.
KD: Tell me where Amber is–or shoot me.
Amber: It’s over, Donald.
Donald: So, you’re going to do nothing?
Amber: No, I’m going to do exactly what I planned. I’m going to move to London and live happily ever after.
Amber: Demi used to swear by you–but you’re a man.
Donald: Well, we’re not all like Demi.
Donald: Speak to your dad.
Amber: There’s no point. You don’t understand what it’s like.
Donald: I mean, he’s a father, isn’t he? I’m a father myself, I know what that means. How can he not love Miriam? How can he not love you, Amber?
[At the train station]
Amber: Oh, come on, Donald. It’s only a hug.
Lies We Tell screened at several international film festivals and won multiple awards before its official release:
- Official Selection, Byron Bay Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, Foyle Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, Nottingham International Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, Kerry Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, South West London International Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, World Cinema Mumbai Film Festival 2017
- Official Selection, Raindance Film Festival 2017
how this movie got made
…How on earth did, with all due respect, a pair of cinematic nobodies manage to get such talent on board? Misra and the film’s producer, Andy McDermott, laugh at the question. “We come from a business mindset where if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” says McDermott. “We asked and, being Yorkshiremen, weren’t put off when people said no. We just kept asking. And then people started saying yes.”
Their biggest coup was securing Byrne, star of The Usual Suspects and Miller’s Crossing, to play a leading role. But why would a Golden Globe-winning actor agree to appear in a film made by a double-glazing tycoon with no film-making experience? “We contacted his agent and sent the script, and we got a meeting,” says Misra. Byrne invited Misra and McDermott to meet him at a pub in Howth, near Dublin. “That was a tough meeting,” laughs Misra. “He went through the script with a fine-tooth comb, getting me to explain each character’s motivation until he was satisfied the story held up and we knew what we were doing. And then he agreed to be in the film.”
But Misra didn’t know what he was doing. Not really. “That became clear on the the first day of the shoot,” he says, laughing. “You see, I’d done screenwriting courses in London when I was 45, but nothing about how to actually make a film.
“So, on that first day, somebody was waving something in front of me. I said: ‘What’s that?’ It turned out it was a boom. You know, the big mic? Gabriel heard and I got summoned to his trailer. When I got there, he had his shirt off and was marching up and down. He said: ‘Have you never been on a set before?’ I said no. He said: ‘Why the fuck didn’t you do a course?’ ‘Arrogance,’ I said. That made him laugh. I think that’s why he didn’t quit.”
Another reason Byrne stayed, presumably, is that by the time shooting began on Lies We Tell two years ago, Misra had surrounded himself with accomplished movie professionals, not least his director of photography, Santosh Sivan. The Indian cinematographer makes Bradford look unprecedentedly glamorous in Misra’s film. For those who know the city from dowdy-looking British films such as Billy Liar or Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Sivan’s Bradford will be a sumptuous revelation…
behind the scenes
Roger Ebert.com/Glenn Kenny
Lead actors Byrne and Deen do grounded, stalwart work, and director Mitu Misra occasionally succeeds in making the characters’ milieu’s register with force. But the storytelling is rickety. Characters are introduced willy-nilly and viewers don’t find out their place in the movie’s scheme until much, much later. There’s a way in which the whole thing just fails to hold together. The themes of cultural difference are certainly pertinent, and the movie is eager to face up to them. At one point, Amber’s mom asks her, in disgust, “Why are you judging us by British standards?” Amber’s own ambitions—it’s revealed in the middle of the movie that Demi was putting her through law school, and they mutually promised to end that affair once the achievement was unlocked—are frustrated, with extreme prejudice, on all sides. A more focused approach to her dilemma might have yielded a more memorable movie.
‘The only men who get caught are those who don’t love their wives enough’. So says philandering billionaire Demi (Harvey Keitel), shortly before he pops his clogs and leaves his driver Donald (Gabriel Byrne) to clear up his mess – mostly involving his mistress Amber (Sibylla Deen).
Surprisingly, all this happens in Bradford, the home of first-time co-writer and director Mitu Misra, who shows both inexperience and promise in this cluttered but intriguing thriller. Aussie actress Deen is impressive as the trainee lawyer who’s struggling to do right by her strict Muslim family, while Byrne brings a downtrodden gravitas, recalling the 1986 crime drama ‘Mona Lisa’, as he wearily agrees to help Amber keep the truth from her family…
Nonetheless, it’s well performed and a periodically fascinating study of Bradford’s seedy underbelly that’s rarely seen on film – the sexual rituals in shady nightclubs are a far cry from the cheeky car-rocking of ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’. For all its rough edges, this has an air of authenticity that only a local filmmaker could bring, and it’s certainly a curiosity worth seeing.
Gabriel Byrne moves pensively, wearily, through Mitu Misra’s “Lies We Tell,” as though through a much better film. For a time, as the doggedly loyal chauffeur and secret-keeper of a rich boss, dunking his dialogue into a comfy Northern England accent like a Custard Cream into a mug of tea, he almost convinces the audience, too. But very much to its detriment, Misra’s ambitious, overflowing soap opera of a debut is not content with being the character portrait that Byrne’s inherently interesting Donald deserves. It’s not even a particularly colored-in sketch of Amber (promising newcomer Sibylla Deen), the headstrong young Pakistani Muslim woman Donald befriends as she gets trapped between old-country tradition and mean-streets modernity in contemporary Bradford.
Instead the undeniably enthusiastic Indian-born, U.K.-raised Misra has the tourist-like, pent-up voracity of the first-time filmmaker. There’s a slew of racial, gender, and religious issues he needs to snapshot, a handful of headline-grabbing true stories he wants to sample and a grand itinerary of genres he wants to visit, and who knows if he’ll ever get more than these paltry 110 minutes to do it in? Something’s got to give, and unfortunately it’s narrative coherence and character consistency, rather than any of the superfluous subplots, that get the chop. Misra spent a decade working on this project, but the years have clearly been engaged in accretion rather than sculpture, and the resultant script, co-written with Ewen Glass and Andy McDermott, is arthritic with overplotting.
Gabriel Byrne and Harvey Keitel appeared together in the 1993 film Point of No Return.