Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Despite a powerful, charismatic performance from the underrated Brian Cox as paedophile Big John, L.I.E., named after the Long Island Expressway which runs through the location and many of the film's key scenes, is a movie which seems largely to have been misunderstood, as it doesn't really centre on John at all.

It is, rather, a coming of age story, focusing on lonely 15-year-old Howie, who encounters a number of different characters mostly out for their own ends, and gradually learns to discern when he is being taken advantage of. As he struggles to deal with the confusing relationships in his life, with the death of his mother and subsequent betrayals by his father and adored best friend, the film expands to take a look at the equally problematic relationships of the adults around him, until eventually his friendship with the potentially predatory Big John comes to seem like one of the sanest options around.

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This is a paedophile who is open about his behaviour, though he admits he is ashamed of it; who is not portrayed as a monstrous outcast but who is, rather disturbingly, a pillar of the community, known and liked by everyone. Cox portrays him as a very likeable person, partly because of his interest in Howie, when nobody else cares about the boy at all. The darker side of his interest is portrayed subtly and cleverly, as we witness his disintegrating relationship with his live-in boyfriend, who is jealous of Howie, aware that he himself is not getting any younger. Thus it becomes clear that, even while John refrains from acting on his sexual desire, it is the essential part of his commitment, which he may casually disregard when it wanes.

This is a story in which nobody can be trusted even to be consistent. It offers no reassuring default morality, no normality. One of Howie's friends is fucking his own sister, another is running off to California to live as a rent boy. Howie's father has dark secrets. The Long Island Expressway takes random lives. Howie has to learn to deal with the randomness of life, and it is the way he does so which makes this film so compelling. This is a fascinating piece of work deserving of a much wider audience than it is likely to get.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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A disaffected youth on Long Island becomes involved with a rich paedophile, after his father has been arrested for fraud.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Michael Cuesta

Writer: Stephen M. Ryder, Michael Cuesta, Gerald Cuesta

Starring: Brian Cox, Paul Dano, Billy Kay, Bruce Altman, James Costa, Tony Donnelly, B Constance Barry

Year: 2001

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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