Emily Schooley‘s new short film, Life and the Art of Lying, has its premiere at the Toronto Short Film festival later this month, and it confirms what many of us already know: Canada is a bright source of LGBTQ media. With recent television shows like Wynonna Earp, Orphan Black, and Killjoys, and web series like the explosively popular Carmilla (which was made into a surprisingly delightful, sleekly produced film), women loving women (WLW) storylines abound in the great north.
Life and the Art of Lying centers on Charlie, a queer artist with a close-knit group of friends, one of whom, Mara, she’s in love with. The film opens during a New Year’s Eve party during which Charlie passes out at midnight, chalking it up to intoxication. This is where we first learn about Charlie’s penchant for lying—mostly about how she feels, whether it’s toward Mara or in her body. Because, it turns out, Charlie is sick.
Following a terminal cancer diagnosis, which is a recurrence of previously diagnosed cancer, Charlie proceeds to hide her physical ailments from her friends until she no longer can.
The story, however, doesn’t go where I expected it to. The twist ending reveals the true hero of the story and bends genre. It took me by surprise, and I like that.
Short-form narratives don’t tend to by my favorite, generally speaking. I like to get to know characters, need time to get invested in them, and I enjoy seeing actors/writers/creators develop and grow over time. Life And the Art of Lying, like most well-told short stories, managed to pack a lot into a small space. In a way, this is jarring. Without the time and space for much buildup, the story seems almost rushed and confusing.
However, after some digestion and reflection on the film, I found that the story bends boundaries in a way that ended up working for me. Its surprising—if a little cheesy—ending considers broad societal questions of capitalism, class, and science, and it uses queer women to do it. That’s something I can get behind.
Images Courtesy of Laughing Cat Productions
Full disclosure: The author was sent an early screener of this film. The opinions are her own.