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WHITE LIE: 4 STARS. “a fascinating study in deception.”

“White Lie,” a new drama now on VOD, is a study in the lengths a person will go to find attention, sympathy and yes, even money, on social media.

Set in Hamilton, Ontario, the story focusses on Katie (Kacey Rohl), a university student diagnosed with terminal melanoma skin cancer. Trouble is, she isn’t sick. To create the illusion, she shaves her head, pretends to go to chemo treatments and takes pills that make her look unwell.

Her make-believe condition has made her a semi-celebrity on campus and the recipient of funds raised by the #Fight4Katie campaign, money that she uses to pay a doctor to fake medical records. “Make something up,” she says. “Whatever you write is what I have.”

Her girlfriend Jennifer (Amber Anderson) is a staunch supporter who really thinks Katie is sick. But not everyone does. Her own father (Martin Donovan) doesn’t believe she’s ill, and fears she is repeating behavior from her youth. When her mother killed herself Katie faked an illness to excuse herself from school. Now, tired of her constant requests for money he goes public with his fears, exposing Katie as a fraud on the event page for her fundraiser. “She is faking cancer,” he writes. “The money she is raising is for herself and not for charity.”

Will she own up to her scam or will she continue to deceive everyone around her?

“White Lie” is a fascinating study in deception. While we never learn exactly what motivates Katie, writer-director duo Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis weave a convincing tale of the seduction of presenting a life on social media that fits a concocted narrative. In Katie’s case it’s an extreme manipulation of the truth, the cousin of the curated Instagram life style posts millions of people post every day.

The film’s most impressive feat is in its treatment of Katie. She is, by all standards, duplicitous and manipulative, and yet Rohl’s sensitive performance humanizes the Machiavellian character without ever cutting her any slack. When Katie’s fears and past trauma are laid bare it reveals the possibility that she is driven by a force that she doesn’t completely understand. It doesn’t excuse her behavior but it creates that psychological push and pull between disgust and empathy that keeps “White Lie” compelling.

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