VOD film review: The Trouble With The Truth
Matthew Turner | On 14, Aug 2016
Director: Jim Hemphill
Cast: John Shea, Lea Thompson, Danielle Harris, Keri Lynn Pratt, Rainy Kerwin
Watch The Trouble With The Truth online in the UK: iTunes
Written and directed by Jim Hemphill, this engaging US indie unfolds as a single conversation between two people, in the style of Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre or Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. Effectively a two-hander (apart from a short prologue), the film presents an emotionally engaging portrait of two complex, flawed people as they lay bare the reasons for their failed marriage in a way that feels organic and real.
John Shea (Lois & Clark’s Lex Luthor) plays Robert, a struggling jazz musician whose career has failed to deliver on its early promise. When his 20-year-old daughter, Jenny (Danielle Harris), informs him that she’s getting married, Robert reaches out to his ex-wife, Emily (Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson), whom he hasn’t seen for several years, and the pair agree to have dinner together.
Now a successful novelist married to a wealthy benefactor, Emily appears to have the perfect life in the wake of her divorce from Robert, whose various failings include (but are not limited to) womanising, narcissism and general superiority. However, over the course of the evening, as the former spouses hash over all the details of their 14-year marriage and divulge a handful of new revelations, they discover something of the old spark and sense the possibility of a new change in their lives.
There’s an intriguing tension running throughout the film between the likeability of the actors (who share a relaxed, easy chemistry) and the occasionally less-than-sympathetic natures of their characters – in the early stages, Robert, in particular, oozes self-satisfied smugness (perhaps because he feels he has the upper hand in the conversation at that point) and punctuates his every remark with a smirk that even Bruce Willis would think was too much. However, as the evening progresses, Robert’s own vulnerabilities begin to surface, just as Emily reveals aspects of her character that place her in a different light, with the pair’s various flaws making them seem ever more relatable.
Hemphill’s assured direction, coupled with some skilful editing, allows the sharply written dialogue to flow naturally, without the material ever feeling too stagey. The conversation touches on a number of emotionally resonant themes, such as what it means to truly share your life with someone, the role of luck plays in shaping your destiny, and the way your life turns out versus the hopes and dreams you had when you were young. Hemphill’s literate script also throws up some pleasingly unexpected references (you have to admire a film that name-checks Radley Metzger’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven), but actually has them serve as interesting conversation points rather than leaving them dangling as evidence of the writer’s intellectual credentials (looking at you, Woody Allen).
Ultimately, one of the most interesting aspects of the film is that it refuses to offer an easy solution; the viewer isn’t necessarily shepherded towards the opinion that Robert and Emily belong together, with Hemphill cleverly finding a way to validate differing interpretations.