Based on director Mats Arehn’s memories of his own father, “White Lies” is a charming, humorous pic with lots of dark undertones. Featuring a tour-de-force performance by Peter Haber as a duplicitous paterfamilias, this dramatic comedy looks like it will be a solid box office success at home, with potential offshore legs as well.
Palle Hagmann (Haber) is a popular vaudeville singer in 1940s Sweden whose career is held back only by his growing tendency to lie and cheat. He tells his admiring son that “there are white lies you use to save yourself, and other types of lies you never use,” but even Hagmann’s white fibs get him into more and more trouble.
Though ever optimistic — opining that “when God closes one door, he quickly opens another”– Hagmann gradually realizes that even God can run out of doors.
Hagmann’s story moves from Sweden through Finland to the south of France, where the family tries to run a hotel. Events are viewed through the eyes of his young son (repping Arehn himself) and build into a portrait that’s both nostalgic and bitter but with love and forgiveness at the core.
As a director, Arehn has had a checkered career, but “White Lies” shows him at his best. Pic has broad appeal and a fine cast. Haber, who’s turning into one of Sweden’s best actors, is knockout as the father.
Tech credits are excellent, lensing the centerpiece.