The opening voice over of The Whole Truth sets the tone of the film. While it sounds very much like an old school detective from film noir, it is actually spoken by Richard Ramsey (Keanu Reeves), a defense attorney who is defending Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso) on trial for the murder of his father Boone(Jim Belushi). The biggest problem Ramsey faces is that Mike refuses to talk to him—or anyone else. So Ramsey has to defend the case without Mike’s side of the story.
Ramsey is a Lassiter family friend. He was on the scene nearly as quickly as the police when Mike was found over his father’s body saying “Should have done this years ago”. Or was it “I should have done this years ago”? Boone was a somewhat stern father. It’s not unimaginable that he might have battered Mike and/or Boone’s wife Loretta (Renée Zellweger). But is that enough of a defense? And is that tableau of Mike over Boone’s body really enough evidence of his guilt?
As the title implies, this is a story about uncovering what really happened. As the trial begins, Ramsey is joined by a colleague (actually the daughter of a former colleague), Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Is she there just as window dressing—showing a young African-American woman is on Mike’s side? On their first meeting Ramsey tells her he wants her to be a “bullshit detector” to help him know who is lying. And there are many lies that are being told—by everyone involved. It is Janelle who is really in the dark through the whole process. And it is Janelle who ends up with a moral crisis of what to do when she begins to understand the truth.
The film (as films noir often do) peels back layer after layer of truth and lies. That creates a setting for considering the morality (or lack thereof) of telling the truth in a world that seems to be built on a foundation of falsehood. Can it be that the lies that everyone tells themselves and each other will make it easier to live in the aftermath of what happened, or is a life built on lies bound to undercut the happiness that everyone seems to be looking for. As we slowly discover the “whole truth” of this story, we may find we’re very pessimistic that any good will come out of all these lies.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere
The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.