A challenging, powerful film. Can a predatory paedophile be redeemed by his love for a fifteen-year-old boy? Can a fifteen-year-old boy find what heís missing in his relationships with his father and friends with a predatory, elderly paedophile? As I said, a challenging film.
Howie is fifteen; his mother has recently been killed on the Long Island Expressway (hence the title L.I.E.). Well off, but lacking in care and love from a father who canít express these things with his son, Howieís life seems to be spiralling out of control. His best friend, Gary, appears to offer him something that he canít get anywhere else, but thereís an edge to this offer of friendship. Gary amuses himself by breaking into houses, and he wants Howie with him. Going along for the ride, Howie is sucked into Garyís world, his confusing emotional attachment to the other boy clouding his otherwise pretty sagacious judgement.† One day, they break into the house of a Vietnam marine veteran and steal his automatic handguns.
Big John is not your normal ex-marine. He preys on young boys. Gary has made a huge mistake because John recognises him and tracks him downóGary is not only a thief, heís a hustler, and John has been one of his clients.
Howie is implicated in the robbery and his life then collides with Big Johnís.
This is not your normal film. It has a real message, and is worth watching through to its shocking conclusion. The central performance of the boy playing Howie is quite remarkable, as he runs the gamut of emotions from tiny, lost child to knowing, adult flirt. The other boys, as unattractive as they are presented, also seem very real.
Worth watching, but left me feeling uneasy.
I can hardly believe a non judgemental movie about such a controversial subject could emerge from America.† Itís an independent production that censors slapped an NC-17 certificate on despite the fact itís got less sex than most Hollywood offerings, and very little violence.†
The movie challenges attitudes to paedophilia with a sympathetic approach to a sexually predatory middle-aged man (Brian Cox).† Coxís character Big John, ex US marine and avuncular pillar of the community, has sex with boys and young adults.† He watches internet porn and has photos of prepubescent boys around his house.† Yet heís human not an evil monster.† Which makes a lot of sense to me because if paedophiles arenít charming and normal surely they couldnít succeed?† I enjoy a film that challenges my assumptions, though it was difficult to accept liking John after Mysterious Skin.† Or was I seduced like Johnís victims?
When John discovers Howie and friends breaking into his house it leads to a relationship neither expected, raising questions about different kinds of love and the complications of desire.† This refusal to paint in B & W is far from the hysteria that usually surrounds the issue.† Weíre forced to think about what we see happening between John and Howie, that itís almost paternal.† John has a gap in his life he fills with inappropriate sex, while Howieís father is emotionally distant and inadequate so his son looks for a substitute who recognises his need for intimacy.†
Howie is lonely, trying to deal with grief over his motherís recent death.† His father is either too busy with work or banging the bimbo heís moved in to replace his dead wife.† Awakening sexuality is a major part of adolescence.† Howie has a developing crush on beautiful bad boy Gary, who hustles on the side unknown to Howie, thatís how he knows Big John.† The film is realistically ambiguous about Howieís sexuality.† The point is made that kids this age with raging hormones will take whatever they can get.† But my feeling is Howie is definitely attracted to his sensuous friend Gary though heís unsure what that means.
L.I.E. is the Long Island Expressway carrying lanes of traffic very noisily past the locale where the film is set, a suburban neighbourhood of mixed income family houses.† Of course it also stands for the lies that knit lives together and tear them apart too.† As a signifier for the road its young hero Howie aged 15 is about to enter towards adulthood.† And the choices he must make that will decide his future.
Howie is bright and articulate and under no illusions what John wants.† Heís ready for manhood and that includes sex.† He flirts with John, who surprisingly isnít always the one in control.† By the end Howie stands up to his father in a story as much about coming of age as paedophilia.† The young actor does an amazing job, very naturalistic.
Coxís performance carries the film.† It wouldnít work if we couldnít see the man behind his vice.† He makes Big John both menacing and vulnerable, a man struggling with what he is and seeing that just this once he can do whatís right for a special boy, a possibility of redemption, though I donít believe it changes him.†
Quietly observed moments, like Howie putting on his dead motherís lipstick and Big John shaving him with a cutthroat razor show the power of a visual medium.† The soundtrack is excellent too.† Thereís a melodramatic tinge to the ending and the central metaphor is a bit overdone, but this is definitely one to watch.