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Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Life and the Art of Lying

By Emily Schooley 

22 Dec, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


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To quote her online bio:

Emily Schooley is a multi-passionate filmmaker who enjoys blending genres and pushing boundaries in her work. 
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with an Honours BA in Dramatic Arts, she quickly found herself immersed in the world of film alongside her work in theatre, first as an actor and then evolving to directing, writing, and producing. Now, she continues to work as an actor while simultaneously building her body of work and developing her voice as an emerging filmmaker. 
Her previous short film, Psyche, won Audience Choice at Festigious International Film Festival. Emily is a proud associate member of Film Fatales, and will be appearing in MJI Studios’ upcoming documentary about women in the film industry.

But I am not reviewing Psyche1. I am reviewing Life and the Art of Lying.

Ah, true love. The greatest impediment to true love: the people involved.

Charlie likes Mara. Mara likes Charlie2. Everyone around them can see the mutual attraction. If only Charlie would make the first move. If only Mara would make the first move. 

If only Charlie weren’t keeping a huge secret from her friends, one that makes a long-term relationship a risky investment. Habitually secretive, Charlie grudgingly admits to incapacitating headaches. What she doesn’t admit to is the reason why she has the headaches.

But even the famously private Charlie can succumb to attraction. Admitting how she feels is risky enough. What’s far more risky is revealing to Mara that she has a serious medical condition and that she intends to address it in a serious way. 

All love is transient; everyone dies. Some loves are more immediately transient than others.


This is spec-fic (though a border case) for reasons that would be spoilers were I to reveal them. But I can say that (IMHO) the author is overlooking some possible plot swerves. If she is reading this, I will give her a hint: Consider Martin Shkreli.”

As of yesterday I had never viewed an LGBT romance flick that made me think of C. S. Lewis. What a wonderful world this is, that has such films in it! Although I would be astounded to learn that the Lewis-Gresham relationship had been in Schooley’s mind when she wrote this, there are some parallels. 

My readers know that I have little patience for romantic endeavours approached in a hesitant, indecisive manner. Did Lord Cardigan hesitate at Balaclava? Did Crassus dither at Carrhae? Did Henry II pause before Legnica? Of course not! And romance is the same: strike boldly, secure in the knowledge that the results may be mentioned in hushed tones for centuries. 

In Charlie’s case, I am inclined to forgive her hesitancy, because her situation requires full disclosure about mortality, which is something a lot of doomed mayflies seem uncomfortable to acknowledge. It seems that Charlie is correct to worry, given that Mara’s initial reaction to the news is anger3. On the other hand, the worst case scenario is that Mara rejects Charlie entirely, which only puts Charlie where she was to begin with. 

The performances seem very Canadian, in a way I find hard to articulate. It’s not the accents but the deliveries, which are in a style I associate with Canadian performances (radio plays, amateur and professional stage performances, and some film and television). Is this a recognized school of performance or is it just people drawing on the materials to which they are exposed? It’s perfectly effective but also really distinctive.

Canadian artists love death as a narrative full stop. Schooley sidesteps the standard model by introducing the possibility early in her story. Mortality is not the brick wall into which the story slams, but the road on which this romance runs. The result is quite engaging.

The full credits can be found here. Unfortunately, the film itself is not generally available (yet) but at least I got to see it and isn’t that the important thing?

1: You might wonder why I didn’t review Psyche. The reason is simple: there’s a scene in it that happens to involve one of my little phobias.

2: I wonder what the odds are that of the five stories I reviewed from Dec 18 – 24, four would feature LGBT relationships? If we take the simplified (to the point of incorrectness) case where there are only two genders and only couples, then of the four possible permutations (ff, fm, mf, and mm), only two involve mf. And they could both involve people who are T or B. Were you to consider the math of the matter, you could regard a week of nothing but white-bread mixed-gender relationships as statistically unconvincing. 

By the way, it turns out a lot of people dislike having their relationships described as statistically unconvincing.” 

3: Which I acknowledge falls within the range of plausible human reactions while not understanding why some people react that way. Rage is an engine without compare, but only productive if harnessed correctly. Shouting at Charlie won’t make her less sick. Not to mention that Charlie’s choices once she commits to Mara are either tell Mara what’s going on” or let it come as a delightful surprise,” and I am pretty sure the second one is much worse.