Millie / Credit: Sandy Lane Productions

Millie Lies Low

SXSW Film Festival Narrative Spotlight Section

Reviewed for by Abe Friedtanzer

Director: Michelle Savill

Writer: Michelle Savill, Eli Kent

Cast: Ana Scotney, Rachel House, Sam Cotton, Jillian Nguyen, Chris Alosio

Screened at: SXSW Film Festival Online, LA, 3/16/22

Opens: March 13th, 2022

Everyone experiences disappointments in their lives. The impact of a particular letdown depends on how much was riding on it and what else happens as a result. When a great deal of people in someone’s orbit are aware of an opportunity that comes along, it can be all the more devastating if it falls through for some reason. Rather than admit defeat, some will choose instead to project the illusion of success, a gambit that inevitably leads to the unfortunate and embarrassing reveal of its falsehood.

Millie (Ana Scotney) has scored the internship of a lifetime in New York City, and everyone in her New Zealand hometown of Wellington knows that where she’s headed. But when she has a panic attack on the plane before it takes off, she runs for the exit, resulting in her being escorted off and missing the flight. Upon learning that a new ticket will cost her much more than she can afford, Millie retreats back to familiar surroundings, creatively using a New York City map and other props to make it seem like she has in fact reached her destination and is living the dream life in America.

This film is most definitely a comedy, even if its inciting event – Millie’s inability to stay on the plane – isn’t played for laughs. While Millie does try to deny to anyone she meets that she had a panic attack, she chooses to overindulge in a lie that will only get her into trouble, when she likely could have figured out a way to raise the money she needed in order to get a new flight and begin her promising career abroad just a day or two later. But rather than ask for help from anyone other than dubious loaners, she doubles down and digs herself into a deeper hole with each passing moment.

Millie Lies Low represents a fabulous start for two relatively unknown talents. Writer-director Michelle Savill makes her feature debut behind the camera, bringing to life an endearing story with an unapologetically awkward lead. In her first lead film role, Scotney shows that she’s capable of being funny and carrying a movie, even if her character is not prone to making good decisions and tends to find a way to make her situation worse at every turn.

While Millie could easily be the laughing stock of Wellington each time someone else discovers her secret, this film chooses to be deeper than that, showing how those who notice Millie in a place she’s not supposed to be on the other side of the world deal with it in just as strange and inexplicable a manner. Rather than be astounded or horrified, or try to tell the world what is happening, they react with surprise and genuine confusion. While Millie assumes that everyone will be out to get her, it’s affirming to see that mean spirits don’t always prevail, and sometimes there’s just discomfort and nothing more to it.

Millie Lies Low boasts a fitting title because that is ostensibly what she is trying to do, yet she seems to go out of her way to complicate her already messy situation. It’s fun to watch as she scrambles and takes additional steps to prop up the illusion, but the better reason to enjoy this film is to savor its dramatic and resonant moments. Rachel House is particularly poignant as Millie’s mother, and the rest of the cast delivers strongly as well. This film’s premise may be simple, but it manages to make it work and to remain engaging for the duration of its runtime.

100 minutes

Story – B+

Acting – B+

Technical – B+

Overall – B+

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