Film Review by: #BrianPenn
In a streetwise age we might wonder how anyone could be fooled
by a con artist. But trust can sometimes defeat the cynic that lies deep within us. The Good Liar is a tale of deceit, greed and chickens that ultimately come home to roost. Retired university lecturer Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) has been recently widowed, but husband Alistair has left her financially secure. She seeks companionship online and meets retired army man Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen). Outwardly charming and personable, Roy is a long standing fraudster looking for his latest mark. He inveigles his way into Betty's home and quickly wins her confidence. Grandson Steven (Russell Tovey) is suspicious and does not trust him in the slightest. Vincent (Jim Carter) is roped in to provide the financial advice that will convince Betty to part with her money.
Here's where the plot potentially falls through the floor; how can someone as bright and articulate as Betty be fooled by the increasingly transparent Roy? But this is exactly how a fraud would work. A conman wouldn’t necessarily identify a mark because they are slow witted. But more likely they connect with someone who wants to believe in human nature and that people are basically good. Naivety and stupidity are opposite sides of the same coin as trust takes over. However dubious this storyline might sound it does happen; and we can never discount what people might do if they are lonely and vulnerable. On the face of it, Betty would appear to be the perfect mark; a widow with money suffering from the empty nest syndrome. But is she smart enough to see through Roy and his sidekick Vincent?
We gradually learn more about Betty and Roy as two complex life stories begin to unravel. The plot fires off in multiple directions with more than a hint of incredulity. It relies on the assumption that nobody can fly under the radar; and we leave indelible footprints that will eventually find us out. There is of course a subtle balance between what is possible and what is likely. Provided we accept the former then the plot works perfectly well and becomes an enjoyable film; Mirren and McKellen are in sparkling form and carry the film through to a satisfactory conclusion.