At first glance, The Good Liar, directed by Bill Condon, is a feel-happy, chuckle-induced look at two seniors on the dating scene post-spousal deaths and routine re-programmings. Starting the film off with the pretense that these two potential lovebirds are fit for a fling – or at least a fruit breakfast – is a misnomer. That’s not what it’s about at all because the two subjects are both liars. The film is adapted from a 2016 novel of the same name by author Nicholas Searle.
The beginning of the film depicts career con artist Roy Courtnay (Ian McKellen) meeting well-to-do widow Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren) for dinner. He approaches her, she appears to shy away from the weight of it all, and the two eventually share a meal together. Ultimately, Roy develops an “overnight” knee injury and moves conveniently into Betty’s spare bedroom. From there, the two develop a non-romantic companionship that both amuses and annoys Betty’s grandson Steven (Russell Tovey), who knows there’s more to Roy’s story than meets the eye.
The plot thickens when a series of untimely fatal incidents begin to add up around Roy and a coy Betty appears to become wise to something amiss. But how much of it is her own doing? We’ll leave that to the audience to discover on their own – but we will share that it’s worth the wait.
Although the plot feels slow moving in parts and I wasn’t particularly fond of the token gay male character, the reality is this: Mirren and McKellen still have it. And that’s no lie.