Dir: Jacob Chase
The Four Faced Liar is the first feature film written by 25 year old Marja-Lewis Ryan, and while it is far from perfect it marks her out as someone to watch in the future. The story is very generic; gay college student Bridget (Ryan) and her flatmate Trip (Todd Kubrak) meet Molly (Emily Peck) and Greg (Daniel Carlisle) in the titular bar one night, and they hit it off, Bridget and Molly in particular begin spending a lot of time together, and it becomes clear that there is some attraction between them, which places strain on Molly and Greg's very sweet and rather conservative relationship. You can probably guess, given that this is the closing film in this year's London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, how things develop from there.
That's really the problem with the film, being generic is one thing, but almost every beat of The Four Faced Liar is predictable, down to almost the last detail. Every scene you expect to see in a dramedy about a lesbian and a straight girl getting together is played out almost exactly as you'd expect it to be and the film rounds off with the last in a long series of tremendous clichés.
That said, it's hard not to like this film, thanks largely to the details of Ryan's screenplay (based on her earlier stage play). The general shape of the film is familiar to the point of being hackneyed, but the character writing is top notch. Ryan shows a real knack for establishing an individual voice for each of her characters, and for detailing the relationships between them. Too often the characters in movies all sound like the writer, not so here, there aren't any moments where you feel the dialogue could be interchangeable; none of Bridget's speeches could be delivered by Molly, none of Trip's by Greg. There is also a nice sense of the closeness between old friends Bridget and Trip, and of the growing relationships between Molly and Bridget and Trip and Greg.
These qualities in the writing are also aided by strong performances. Ryan and Peck are both excellent, giving natural low key turns, and playing the film's often funny dialogue entirely straight and real. Kubrak, courtesy of a more outgoing character, has fun giving a larger performance which has most of the film's funniest moments. The only slight problem acting wise is that Daniel Carlisle can come off somewhat flat, but then Greg is such a drip that this may be a choice on his part.
24 year old first time feature director Jacob Chase handles the largely hand held visuals well, usually making sure that the camera remains unobtrusive. There is a definite guerilla feel to the filmmaking; it's not polished, and a few scenes (notably the love scenes) are perhaps a little darker than they should be, but for the most part the direction serves the film well, and energises the film enough that it doesn't feel like a filmed play.
The Four Faced Liar definitely has its issues, but there is plenty here to like, and to suggest
that many of the people involved will go on to make better more fully realised films in the future. I'd certainly suggest checking this one out though, whether at LLGFF or when it comes to DVD next month.