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  • 18
  • Drama, Mystery
  • 2005
  • 119 mins

The Truth

The Truth

Synopsis

The truth falls victim to faddish relativism in writer-director George Milton's darkly comic murder-mystery for "generation me"

About

George Milton earned his chops as a director with the political puppetry of television's 'Spitting Image', and it's an experience that has left its mark on his second feature, The Truth, with its broad-brush caricatures and topical satire. Set in Serenity Lodge, an isolated country retreat for seekers of spiritual growth, it takes a group of mismatched strangers and spins a tale of middle-class self-absorption that just happens to be interrupted, at least temporarily, by the inconvenience of a murder.

Wheelchair-bound Candy (Cassidy) is relieved to be enrolled in the 'Adventures In Truth' programme, not least because it gets her away from her parents for a whole week. She becomes disenchanted by the inane insensitivities of her fellow guests, and the 'New Age mumbo jumbo' espoused by Californian psychotherapist Donna Shuck (McGovern). Unable to leave, Candy allies herself to Mia (Mornar), a straight-talking Croatian refugee, condescendingly allowed to participate in the course by Donna in exchange for her services as a cleaner.

After a session in which Mia confronts everyone with their own lies, she winds up stone cold dead - and as the group strives to construct a version of events that can accommodate its own unhinged notion of personal growth, Candy races to escape the darker side of therapy before it can claim her as its next victim.

The Truth eludes easy categorisation, and is all the better for it. Divided, like Donna's programme, into seven discrete sections (or 'steps'), it begins as a hilarious spoof of contemporary confessional culture, then stumbles upon the seemingly different generic territory of the murder mystery, before finally, like its characters, losing the plot altogether, or at least concealing it beneath a layer of self-deluding spiritualist bromides. Any or all of Candy's fellows could be the killer, but by the end, the truth behind Mia's death has become a casualty of their faddish relativism, and Candy must learn to go along with the group's self-serving psychosis if she is to keep her head above water. The result is a mix of black comedy, horror, mystery and suspense, where any notion of 'the truth' is rapidly replaced by the players' collective fictions and the film's overarching cynicism.

These shifts in genre are skillfully modulated by Elaine Cassidy, as she navigates the heroine's journey from initial rebellion to Hitchcockian suspicion and terror, and finally to half-hearted surrender. Elizabeth McGovern's endless stream of psychobabble gives the film its most memorable lines, while the supporting cast, familiar for the most part from British television, all expertly manage the switch from absurd and apparently harmless narcissism to something altogether more sinister and dangerous.

Mornar's Mia is the only teller of truths at Serenity Lodge, and as such she represents the group's troubled conscience. Bury that, this film suggests, and you can convince yourself of the truth of anything, no matter how preposterous. It is, in this age of postmodernity, a hard lesson for us all - but also, thankfully, a very funny one.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Stephen Lord, Elizabeth McGovern, Zoe Telford, Leaf Mornar, Amelia Bullimore, Rachael Stirling, William Beck, Elaine Cassidy, Karl Theobald
  • Director: George Hamilton
  • Screen Writer: Mark Tilton, George Hamilton
  • Producer: Julie-Anne Edwards
  • Photographer: Nick Tebbet
  • Composer: Dominik Scherrer

In a nutshell

Counterbalancing a small budget with big ideas, The Truth darkly satirises the moral blindness of relativism without ever forgetting to surprise or amuse.

by Anton Bitel

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