‘THE WHOLE TRUTH’ (2016) MOVIE REVIEW – Making 90 minutes feel like 120
‘The Whole Truth’ is a Courtroom Drama starring Keanu Reeves, Renee Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Jim Belushi and is directed by Courtney Hunt. The film follows a defence attorney Richard Ramsay (Reeves) who takes on a case to keep friend Mike (Gabriel Busso) out of prison after he was charged with the murder of his father Boone (Belushi). As the case unfolds the mystery of what really happened that afternoon of the murder begins to be uncovered. It is a very deliberately slow paced movie and this is to serve as a parallel to the ‘mystery’ which with each testimony and piece of evidence revealed becomes gradually more clear. The problem is that with this incredibly slow moving pace the 90 minute runtime begins to feel more like 120 minutes with long drawn out scenes both in and out of the courtroom. And this is one of those cases where the viewer is way ahead of the film and so you are left waiting for the plot to catch up to what you already know.
Thankfully though i was digging most of the performances throughout the movie. Being a smaller film, and being mostly confined to a single courtroom i thought things were going a little bit like a Lifetime movie. Where maybe it would get a little campy and cliche but it mostly rides a fairly straightforward serious line. Everyone acted in a way that was appropriately fit with the grounded nature of this film which was refreshing to see. Keanu Reeves undeniably is just a very good actor and he delivers the dialogue given to him very astutely to where you buy him as the lawyer he portrays. Renee Zellweger was in an odd place between showing emotion and not showing emotion, her expressions were unclear and i could never really tell if she was sad, disappointed, pleased, ashamed, and it hurt her character who had an unclear and strange agenda throughout. Mbatha-Raw delivered a good performance but as with any of the other performances in the film there’s nothing of super high praise.
As i mentioned earlier, the plot unfolds in a way so that you are figuring things out like 30 minutes before the characters actually tell you. And if you have seen the trailer before going into this film you are maybe 45 minutes ahead of the plot, the problem with all this is a lot of the time you are left waiting for certain small revelations and when they happen it’s underwhelming as you figured that out 20 minutes ago through a flashback scene. The way the ‘mystery’ is revealed through flashbacks involving unreliable narrators in a way was well done but not a new approach as it is used in many other films of the same genre. I will say though there are a few things that happen in the film that caught me off-guard, and they aren’t the twists that feel out of place surprisingly. They make sense with the events that have occurred, and add new layers to certain characters enriching the story slightly. One thing the film definitely did not need is Keanu Reeves’ voiceover…. It shows up every now and then, sometimes it was very brief and sometimes a sentence or two but either way it was very distracting and all it did is tell me basically what was going to happen in the next scene, something i would see for myself 10 seconds later, just an unnecessary addition.
So in the end, The Whole Truth is far from one of the best court dramas and unfortunately harbours too many flaws to propel it into the range of good ones. The slow pace i had no issues with at all, it is just that the plot revealed itself in a way so that you are able to figure out the next reveal or two well before they actually happen. It ruins any surprise associated with it and affects the amount of attention you can pay to it. The very realistic and grounded aspect i thought worked and the performances fit with that approach to the story so that aspect felt quite natural. It’s a fine watch, it isn’t boring at any points but just know that you are going to spend a lot of time analysing evidence and testimonies in a courtroom setting at a very slow pace, if that isn’t your thing maybe skip this one.