Institute History


L.I.E. takes us to a place where the American Dream thrives in nice homes on tree-lined streets. The Long Island Expressway is the great paved conduit that leads to the squeaky clean suburbs of New York against which director Michael Cuesta sets his film. Inevitably, there are cracks in the surface for, in a community set apart from the fray, an underbelly is inevitable. L.I.E. is a study of that festering reality.

Fifteen-year-old Howie, whose mother has just died, must navigate his adolescence virtually unsupervised. His father, a corrupt building contractor, can barely keep tabs on his young girlfriend let alone on Howie. The only adult giving Howie any attention at all is Big John, a local man who is a respected pillar of the community. But we soon discover that Big John has secrets of his own

With a wonderfully complex screenplay that is both troubling and riveting, L.I.E. is full of contradictions that move between sympathy and revulsion. Cuesta projects an eerie complacency to tough subjects, and obtains top-notch performances, including that of Paul Franklin Dano as Howie, who is at once vulnerable and searching, flirting with adulthood yet in that dangerous place where a step in any direction could change his life forever. Brian Cox as Big John is a fascinating mass of deception and suppressed guilt that lurks behind a charming smile and reassuring hand to the shoulder. There will be no heads left buried in the sand, even in quaint Long Island.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]