Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

I love this movie. My family loves this movie. Many reviewers at do not. Sadly, the abundance of one-star reviews can be largely attributed to one fact: The Invention of Lying questions the existence of god.

I wanted to see The Invention of Lying when it was in theaters, but never got around to it. By the time the DVD came out, it had fallen off my radar. It was only recently, when reading an article about Ricky Gervais, that I remembered the movie and I am kicking myself for not watching it sooner.

The Invention of Lying is a beautifully poignant, smart and funny movie. It raises many questions about how we treat each other, and about what motivations truly lie behind our decisions.

*Warning: the rest of this review contains spoilers.

By setting the story in a world where lies of any kind do not exist, we can begin to see just how pervasive lying is in our real lives. People in this alternate world are cruel to each other. This is not because they are trying to be hurtful, but because they are incapable of omitting the truth when answering questions or making someone feel better with a half-truth or "white lie."

In this entirely honest world, we see what really drives people. The beautiful woman may enjoy spending time with the clever, funny man, but she would rather marry a man whose genetics will give her beautiful children. A homeless man carries a sign that says, "I don't understand why I'm homeless and you're not," and the nursing home is "A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People."

The absence of any form of lie also means that there is no such thing as fictional stories in books or movies. For entertainment, people watch filmed lecture series that factually recount historical events. Likewise, advertisements cannot sell their products with false promises of the happiness they will bring.

People in this completely honest world have also never heard of god or religion of any kind. This is entirely fitting, given the context of this alternate world. After all, various religions have their own competing stories of "the truth," yet each are a matter of faith--not fact.

When Mark Bellison (played by Ricky Gervais) discovers that he can "say something that isn't" (lie) he is shocked. It is even more unsettling as he tries to explain his discovery to others and realizes that they cannot comprehend what he means. No matter how absurd his lies, they unquestioningly believe every word.

With this new ability, Mark makes good and bad decisions. Some lies are self-serving and others are told to make other people feel better or otherwise improve their lives. The movie takes a somewhat controversial turn when Mark invents a Man in the Sky with an eternal paradise to ease the fears of his dying mother.

The doctors and nurses who overhear Mark's comforting story of the Man in the Sky want to know more. News travels quickly and others clamor to learn more. Mark eventually tries to make the world a better place by using his Man in the Sky story to encourage good behavior, and this has unintentional consequences. Yet, the exploration of religion is only one of the movie's themes.

Throughout the story, Mark is enamored with a beautiful woman named Anna. Although, as much as he wants to be with her, he can't bring himself to use lies to win her heart. He wants her to choose him with her own free will, otherwise he realizes that her choice would be meaningless.

Those who are uncomfortable exploring the idea of religion as a man-made invention will probably not like this film. There are certain sight-gags that Christians may find blasphemous (e.g. 10 rules delivered on the backs of tablet-like pizza boxes).

However, those with an open mind will see that both lying and the Man in the Sky religion are depicted as having both good and bad points. Lies make the world more complicated, but the brutally honest world at the beginning of the film has many flaws of its own.

To those who enjoy the movie: Please add your review to It's sad to see such a good movie being rated down simply for presenting an atheist viewpoint. Many of the one-star reviews say that they didn't even watch the rest of the film once they realized that it was "anti-god."

In the words of my teenage son (after watching The Invention of Lying), "I feel sorry for anyone who can't see the beauty of this movie."

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