The Good Liar

The Good Liar – Film Review

December 6, 2019
1 min read
The Good Liar - Film Review


The Good Liar

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Jim Carter, Russell Tovey

Running time: 110 mins

Censor: R13, Sexual violence, violence, offensive language & nudity

It features British acting royalty, but The Good Liar is simply a con trick flick with an ending that doesn’t stick, writes TOBY WOOLLASTON.


The Good Liar

Royalty of the British acting talent pool – namely Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren – duke it out in a game of intrigue, skulduggery and lies… delivered with the best possible manners, of course.

The Good Liar is an adaptation of Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name, a story about old people lying to each other, a topic Searle no doubt garnered from his time spent working for the NZ Government.

The Good Liar

McKellen plays Roy, an elderly man whose pleasant nature belies his shady past. He is a con-artist who prays on victims seduced by his seemingly harmless age and impeccable manners, but his latest victim, a money-flush widower named Betty (Mirren), proves to be a trickier prospect than he had first anticipated.

Director Bill Condon has worked with McKellen before (Mr Holmes, Gods And Monsters), and with far better results than this misdirected disappointment. What begins as a promising con-artist tale built on two unlikely candidates unravels itself to reveal a disjointed, illogically told farce.

Screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher (who also worked with Condon and McKellen on Mr Holmes) has made a dog’s breakfast of his adaptation of Searle’s book. Good mysteries deliver their “big reveal” from a collection of lies and truths. To decipher fact from fiction is the game the audience must play. But when a film throws back the curtain on its mystery without allowing its audience the remotest chance of figuring it out, then there is a sense of cinematic betrayal going on. I can’t mention specifics without divulging spoilers, suffice to say that The Good Liar offers two key twists, the first of which is delivered at such glacial speed that environmental scientists could’ve seen it coming.

The Good Liar

The second twist is such a head-scratcher that it requires a subsequent lengthy flashback (setup that should’ve come a lot earlier) to explain itself. Not quite an “it was all a bad dream” moment, but it feels like it. Shame, because The Good Liar starts out so well, but in the words of the good Sir Ian McKellen: “You shall not pass!”

Indeed, his movie doesn’t get one either.

* The Good Liar is screening now in New Zealand cinemas.


Toby is currently a film reviewer for the New Zealand Herald and NZME’s regional media. A film enthusiast since Alien made him shit his pants as a nine-year-old, Toby recently completed a Masters thesis on the phenomenology of the cinema of Darren Aronofsky. So he is well qualified to tell you that phenomenology is a load of boring bollocks… but Aronofsky is quite interesting.

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