THE GOOD LIAR gets 6/10 All the world’s a stage

Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey


Veteran Con-man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen), targets a recent widow, Betty McLeish (Hellen Mirren), discovering that she has a very tidy nest egg. Yet there may be more of a problem for Roy than Betty’s overprotective grandson (Russell Tovey). As they engage in a game of “cat and mouse”, Roy’s past threatens to catch up.

The Good Liar twists itself into an overly convoluted plot, that is reliant on two large information dumps to work as a narrative. Both of these break the flow of the film, making it feel a touch too contrived as it attempts to be clever in its storytelling. All of which feels a little like a cheat, as you get caught up in the art of the con, and as a viewer you’re aware of something afoot, but find it impossible to guess, as it’s reliant on lengthy and dry reveals after the fact.

Which is a bit of a pity, as there is so much that The Good Liar does right, not the least of which is its two stars. In a fine cast of character actors it’s no surprise that Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings saga) shine. Both Thespians bring their extensive stagecraft to bare, pitting against each other in a battle of wits and guile. Wisely this is the focus of The Good Liar, as the film is lifted by their interaction, but flags when a flashback is required to fill in some important back story. However when Mirren and McKellen are on the screen, be it McKellen engaging in some form of con, or the audience wondering if Mirren’s character is as innocent as she seems, then viewers are enthralled. Backed up by Downton Abbey‘s Jim Carter, and Years and Years‘ Russell Tovey, this really is a piece lifted by performances.

Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) creates a handsome vehicle for the two phenomenal talents. The plot of this adapted 2015 novel by Nicholas Searle may be a little too clever for its own good, but it is entertaining fare thanks to the leads.