4 Stars – Inspiring
Turning tragedy into triumph requires faith, and faith can produce miracles. Such is the experience of four children orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Witnessing the destruction of their family and village, then walking a thousand miles across Africa to Ethiopia alone and eventually being rescued and sent to a confusing but safer world in America, these lives become symbols of hope in a world filled with evil.
Although The Good Lie stars Reese Witherspoon as Carrie Davis, an employment agency counselor in Kansas City, Missouri where these boys are sent to live, the real drama of this trek is portrayed by men who themselves were part of this group of “lost boys” from the 1983 civil war. While Americans and others in the west were worrying about inflation and bad hair days, millions of others in places like Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya were, and still are, facing unspeakable evil and pain on a daily basis.
This story follows three brothers and a sister from one devastated family who follow other lost children to a refugee camp in Kenya and eventually to Ethiopia and America. Theo (Okwar Jale/Femi Oguns), the oldest son, is captured along the way and sacrifices himself to rebel soldiers by stating he is alone while his brothers and sister hide in the tall grass. Ultimately, four of the siblings – Mamere (Peterdeng Mongok/Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Thon Kueth/Ger Duany), Paul (Deng Ajuet/Emmanuel Jal), and their sister Abital (Keji Jale/Kuoth Wiel) - are chosen to go to the United States. The three young men end up in Kansas City while Abital is separated from her family and placed with a host family in Boston.
The horror of war is contrasted with the borderline absurdity and comedy of their new life in America. Trying to understand “fast food” and other American idioms brings laughter, but realizing the loss of innocence, separation from loved ones, and the temptation of drugs and alcohol is a sobering reality. There is compassion shown by Christian groups in Kansas City who continually try to help, but there is also a realization of how naïve many people are about the cultural differences that exist in this world. This compassion makes a huge difference, but it is a steep learning curve on both sides that eventually makes both sides stronger.
Nevertheless, through it all, these young men and women carry themselves with humility and a love that is palpable. The relationship that develops between Mamere, Jeremiah, Paul, and their employment counsellor Carrie is the first joy of the story. The second joy is when Carrie ultimately arranges to have their sister Abital reunited with them as a family.
America also offers each a chance to develop their unique talents. Each of them is hired at jobs that are fairly suited to their skills. Mamere wants to study to be a doctor and is given the opportunity to study and share his medical skill. Jeremiah has a strong Christian faith and ultimately works with a church, and Paul likes to build things and ends up working in a factory. Each move along the way is an answer to prayer and is rooted in their faith that overcomes extreme adversity.
The final joy comes from sacrifice. Once Mamere obtains his medical training, he returns to work in the refugee camps of Africa that he once knew as a child. It is there that he is miraculously reunited with his older brother Theo, who sacrificed himself with rebels to free his brothers and sister long ago. Looking alike, and unbeknownst to his brother Theo, Mamere changes his US Passport and sends his lost brother home to Kansas City to be reunited with his family. Mamere makes real the old adage from the play Man of La Mancha; “The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love until you give it away.”
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- In this world of refugees from civil wars what are you doing to bring hope and healing?
- God’s miraculous care is often more obvious in the impossible situations. How have you experienced God’s care in the impossible and in the more normal events of your life?
- The love of family is perhaps the strongest of all emotions. How is your family experiencing and expressing love? Is there anyone you want to bring back “into the fold” as both Abital and Theo are in this film?