L.I.E. is the acronym for the Long Island Expressway, the place where 15-year-old Howie's (Paul Franklin Dano) mother was killed in a car accident. Howie lives with his businessman dad, who ignores him, which means Howie has time to break into houses with his pal Gary (Billy Kay). But Howie sinks into deep trouble when he and Gary steal from Big John (Brian Cox), a Vietnam vet who has a thing for underage boys. L.I.E. is a startlingly assured debut film about an angry teenager who's both pursued and helped by a pedophile who becomes a father figure to him. Risky concept? You bet. But Cuesta and co-writer Steve Ryder pull it off, mainly because of the unnerving performance by Cox (Manhunter, Braveheart), who fleshes out his larger-than-life, complicated character. Like Happiness, L.I.E. makes us question our cut-and-dried notions about evil. 96 minutes.
l.i.e. (Michael Cuesta)