Telling a white lie is no big deal, so long as the truth is never found out. But, in the case of White Lie‘s Katie Arneson, one little fib is a very big deal indeed— she’s faking her cancer diagnosis.
Kacey Rohl (The Magicians, Hannibal, Arrow) stars as the enigmatic Katie, a friendly and reserved university student turned small-time campus celebrity who is using her fraudulent illness for emotional and financial gain. Through her years of “battling” malignant melanoma, Katie manages to build a strong network of supportive friends, meet a rich and exceptionally caring girlfriend, and raise over $24,000 via crowdfunding campaigns and social media.
However, Katie’s tangled web of lies begins to unravel after a scholarship application requires a copy of her medical records by the end of the week— records that she has never had. In an effort to maintain her elaborate ruse, Katie attempts to obtain her crucial documents but ends up exposing the loose threads of her story along the way.
Much like Katie herself, the pace of White Lie is frantic yet well-measured. Although the film begins with the image of a sickly young woman attempting to cling to her life, the audience quickly learns that Katie is largely responsible for creating her own misery. To her girlfriend, Jennifer Ellis (played by Amber Anderson), Katie is overwrought with the stresses of daily survival as she endures weekly chemotherapy treatments and endless doctor’s visits. In Jennifer’s eyes, Katie appears to be a pillar of strength that is endlessly capable of achieving great success despite her harrowing condition. Even so, White Lie‘s audience begins to see Katie for what she really is— a master manipulator that is panicked by the fragile nature of her lie, but tactful in regards to how she represents herself and her story.
While White Lie makes it clear that Katie is deceiving nearly everyone around her, Rohl’s performance convinces the film’s audience to simultaneously sympathize with and loathe the poor girl. As a result, viewers like myself are left with an eerie feeling of discomfort and sadness, as well as a nagging curiosity over what could possibly cause an individual to create such an ornate scheme. Although White Lie suggests that Katie has suffered significant trauma in her life on top of experiencing a tumultuous relationship with her father (played by Martin Donovan of Hannibal, Tenet, and Big Little Lies), the film refrains from attaching a particular diagnosis to the young woman’s frail mental state. In turn, White Lie leaves several questions unanswered— including whether or not Katie will continue to live by her lie following the film’s final scene.
Even though the story behind White Lie is nothing more than a chilling work of fiction, I couldn’t help but notice some spooky similarities to the infamous case of Ashley Kirilow. In the early 2000s, Kirilow discovered a lump in her breast and received a biopsy. Despite news that the lump was benign, Kirilow pretended that the doctors had found a malignancy and took on a new identity as a cancer sufferer. The young woman faked her diagnosis for several years and successfully raised thousands of dollars for herself and others who were battling cancer via mass fundraising campaigns. Much like Katie, Kirilow’s own father began to suspect that his daughter did not have cancer at all and even threatened to report Kirilow to the police if she did not admit to her elaborate lie. Kirilow finally turned herself in on August 6, 2010 and was subsequently charged with several counts of fraud. Pretty uncanny similarity, eh? I suppose they’re right when they say that the truth is almost always stranger than fiction!
Rock Salt Releasing has released White Lie on several different digital streaming platforms (DirecTV, Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, FlixFling, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, Fandango & Google Play)— so check out the film now!