Directed by: #EmilySchooley
Life and the Art of Lying, written and directed by Emily Schooley, was refreshing to watch, as a production featuring a majority female cast telling an #LGBTQ+ story, it is a nice change from the heteronormative system that’s in place in what is still sadly a white, straight male orientated industry. It is a drama that focuses on a queer artist called Charlie (Angela Martin) as she struggles to express her feelings towards Mara (Ariana Leask), the girl she loves, whilst trying to deal with her terminal cancer battle in secret.
Throughout the film, the emotional subject matter is complemented beautifully by Stephen Schooley’s score, the director’s cousin. It’s an often subtle yet comforting accompaniment that truly helps the tone of the film, and is very effective at evoking emotion within the story. Emily Schooley does a good job at building this small and intimate world of friendship, and the art department has done a fantastic job at creating a surrounding at draws the audience into the film, really helping to make these characters and their situation more believable. The cinematography flourishes with its compositions and visual storytelling shines at certain times too, but sadly this excellence varies from scene-to-scene. Where Michael Cameron and Rodney V. Smith may excel in composing particular shots, the standard of creative, detailed compositions drops at various points throughout.
Shot selections were occasionally questionable, closing in on particular characters during lines where it has failed to benefit the story whilst almost feeling shy to be intimate with the characters during some emotional moments, missing opportunities to draw the audience's eyes to vulnerable mannerisms and character interactions early on during the film whilst also allowing for the subtle sexual undertones between Charlie and Mara to suffer in the process. Some of these choices felt unintentionally jarring at times and result in the audience being pulled out of this well-crafted world that they are trying to immerse themselves into. The relationship between the two lead actresses feels genuine and heartfelt, their chemistry is noticeable immediately and despite their flaws you still want them to have each other. Their flaws help humanise them and this makes Charlie and Mara much easier to empathise with. However, performances throughout the cast do suffer from the same issue as the #cinematography and this inconsistency risks losing the viewers investment. The narrative earns a well-executed pay off towards the end of the film, although, unfortunately, this high point was then almost immediately tarnished. The signing off of Life and the Art of Lying seems to force a message into the film. This message comes seemingly out of nowhere, crammed in at the last minute (quite literally) in an attempt to give an already progressive film a somewhat deeper meaning, one that it does not really need.
Unfortunately, it is the lack of consistency within the film as a whole which proves to be the main underlying problem with Life and the Art of Lying. It does have moments where it shines brightly, but it ultimately hinders itself and holds itself back from becoming something greater. The seemingly forced closing message is just one example of how this film, unfortunately, taints its own moments of magic. This type of issue can be frustrating as it shows just how much potential the cast and crew have, however, it also provides audiences with something to be excited about as these talents develop further and they produce more work in the future.