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Strange But True (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Strange But True


Starring Nick Robinson, Amy Ryan, Margaret Qualley, Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner, Brian Cox, Connor Jessup, Allegra Fulton, Mena Massoud, Janaya Stephens, Sarah Allen, Dipal Patel, Darryl Flatman, Noah Denver, Christy Bruce, Tennille Read and Vanessa Burns.

Screenplay by Eric Garcia.

Directed by Rowan Athale.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

In the new movie Strange but True, the “strange” part of the film is much more intriguing than the “but true” section. More to the point, the story came up with a really interesting high concept, one which the actual explanation could not hope to live up to. And it doesn’t.

This is not necessarily the fault of the filmmakers – Strange but True is based on a 2004 novel by John Searles. The story is always intriguing and greatly suspenseful through much of the running time, however eventually the explanation is a bit of a letdown.

The high concept is a corker, though. A family (Nick Robinson, Amy Ryan and Greg Kinnear) has been torn apart by the senseless death of a brother/son (Connor Jessup) who died in a freak accident during prom night.

Five years later, the dead son’s girlfriend (Margaret Qualley) shows up on their doorstep, massively pregnant. She swears she only has had sex once in her life – on the prom night that her lover died. Even though it makes no sense, a psychic has assured her that the dead boy is the father, even though he had been dead for years before she became pregnant.

Interesting conflict, huh?

Too bad they must spend the rest of the film trying to make this whole idea make sense. While there is still a good amount of chilling and intriguing action in the film, the more we learn about what really happened, the less interesting it is, leading to standard boilerplate thriller climax. A pretty unlikely one, at that.

Too bad, we were expecting so much more.

Which is not to say that Strange but True is a bad film. In several ways it is very good, it just doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its idea. However, there is a lot to like, even in the lead up to the explanation.

For example, the acting is pretty spot on. Margaret Qualley particularly shines here, in the middle of her very busy year in which she has been in just about every movie made. (Literally, I just saw her in the film Adam the day before I watched this one.) Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and Blythe Danner are old pros who are always interesting, and Nick Robinson – as the brother of the dead boy – holds the lead role ably.

The storyline is mostly very crisp and suspenseful, and like I said earlier, the basic concept is very inventive. If a movie’s biggest fault is that it such a good idea that it can’t wrap it up cleanly, well at least it’s worth a shot.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: October 22, 2019.

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