‘Big Lies in a Small Town’ is a Lifetime original film, written and directed by Danny J. Boyle. It stars Rhonda Dent, Kristina Paras, Matt Hamilton, Brent Stait, Dax Belanger and Ashley Alexander. As a thriller, it’s a film that tries really hard to be full of shocking twists and turns but only manages to live up to its categorization ostensibly. There’s a clear attempt at trying to be cinematic, on which front there’s a couple of shots that do look good but that’s about it. It could be a passable thriller but the acting, terrible even by LifeTime standards, really makes it difficult to appreciate whatever might be moderately enjoyable about it.
Big Lies in a Small Town (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
A young man and woman stop at Bradner General Store on their way to her mother’s place. The suspicious workers at the store keep an eye on the girl. She takes the key to the washroom out at the back of the store where she an unknown assailant abducts her. She’s thrown into the trunk of a car and that’s the last we saw of her.
A week later, Hannah is on her way to college with her mother, Rachel. She’s sad at having to leave her life behind but Rachel assures that her life is just beginning. Both mother and daughter share matching bracelets that have the words ‘All of my heart’ inscribed on them. They too stop at Bradner General Store and Hannah visits the washroom but nothing happens to her there. She gets two pairs of cheap sunglasses for herself and her mother at the store.
A little while after leaving the store, their car breaks down from a punctured tyre. It turns out that the tyre was slashed. Rachel doesn’t make much of it and replaces the tyre before continuing on their journey. Soon, a black sedan aggressively comes after them. It overtakes them the first time and disappears but reappears before them again, this time overtaking them, only to crash into them in reverse gear.
Two days later, Rachel wakes up at the Myerson Clinic in West Ridge, the only town within a thirty-mile radius of her accident. She was brought in after her accident. Doctor Wilson and Nurse Ross tell her that there was no one else in the car with her and that given the head injury she’s suffered, she should rest. A frantic Rachel does not pay any heed to their advice and decides to check out right away to look for her missing daughter. The town of West Ridge turns out to be one suspicious place.
Given that there was no sign of her daughter at the crash site, Sheriff Lester implies that her head injury might be causing her to imagine that Hannah was with her, or that Hannah is a runaway. At the garage where her car was sent, Rachel learns that it cannot be entirely repaired at present. The assistant mechanic, Jake, tells her that he doesn’t have any information and that he minds his own business at the garage. The owner, Gus, states that Hannah’s backpack wasn’t in the car and is generally uncooperative.
Determined to not leave till she finds her daughter, Rachel checks into a motel in town, owned by a man named Mark. He turns out to be quite helpful, lending her his car and printing posters for her. He is estranged from his own teenage daughter and empathizes with Rachel. Things, though, start going awry really soon. Two people are killed. A man working at the Bradner General Store turns up in town. Rachel finds the car that crashed into hers at Gus’s place, which disappears soon after. She’s also served a warning asking her to leave town. Yet nothing turns out to be a deterrent for Rachel in her search for her daughter.
Why do Nurse Ross and Jake get killed?
Nurse Ross’s finding of Hannah’s bracelet calls into question the narrative that Dr. Wilson and his henchmen are trying to sell about Hannah never being in the vehicle with Rachel in the first place. Because Nurse Ross had already heard about both mother and daughter sharing similar bracelets from Rachel, as well as the inscription ‘With love, Mom’, on the one she discovered, Dr. Wilson’s attempts at trying to make her believe that it might be Rachel’s and not Hannah’s, fails. Given that she has such a crucial piece of evidence, it becomes essential for Dr. Wilson and Gus to get rid of Nurse Ross, lest her handing over of the bracelet to Rachel kick off a serious investigation into Hannah’s disappearance.
Jake is a curious man, and as a result, is under Gus’s thumb as a means of preventing his imagination from running wild. He realizes that the shade of black on the car that crashed into Rachel’s is a rare one from the residues of it left on the bumper of her car. His suggestion to Gus that they should scrape some of it off of her car and send it to a lab, to get all the possible information about the car’s make is a problem as that would lead the authorities to Gus and Dr. Wilson. Knowing that Jake might actually go forward with what he suggests, Gus gets him out of the way by tampering with the brakes in his car, causing it to crash and have his death appear as an accident.
Big Lies in a Small Town (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
Whose dead body does Sheriff Lester discover?
Towards the end of the film, Rachel is given a call about a dead body that had been discovered next to a creek. The dead girl suffered a fatal spinal injury from a fall and her face was disfigured due to it. To Rachel’s relief, it is not Hannah’s body. While we do not get a clear resolution to this mystery, it’s safe to assume that the dead person whom Sheriff Lester suspects to be Hannah is the girl who was abducted in the beginning of the film, Sarah Johnson.
Rachel sees a similar poster for Sarah on the same bulletin board while putting up a missing person poster for Hannah at the police station. Given that Gus was instructed to look for a specific type of girl, it’s only logical that the Sheriff wrongly assumes that girl to be Hannah, since they share physical and facial traits, both having been targets of the same man. While details of how she died are not given, we can thread the facts together and assume that she ran away from Dr. Wilson’s place and in her hurry, fell from a height and died. Dr. Wilson, after all, is insistent that he didn’t kill her.
Why did Dr. Wilson have Hannah kidnapped?
A year prior to the events of the film, Dr. Wilson’s daughter, Megan, died in a car accident. It devastated his wife, Jenny, and he sought to do something to help her out of her grief. As a solution, he decided that he’d abduct a girl who looks like Megan, and bring her up as their daughter, even if it’s against the abducted girl’s wishes. For this, he employed Gus, asking him to keep a check near the town for girls passing by who look like Megan and can serve as her replacement. Hannah fit the bill perfectly and so, Gus kidnapped her, like he had previously kidnapped Sarah, who ran away and died. Hannah’s visible similarities with Megan greatly helped Jenny out of her bereaved state and hence, he planned on bringing Hannah up as their daughter, even though she is totally opposed to this.
Mark, who had been wrongly getting framed for Hannah’s disappearance, takes down Gus when he tries to stop Hannah from escaping. Hannah returns to Dr. Wilson’s house where she helps her mother in defeating Dr. Wilson and Jenny.
Six months later, Hannah is finally on her way to college. Both, her and Rachel, are in touch with Mark who has shifted to Florida for a new job, as a means of getting out of West Ridge and to reconcile with his daughter. After getting dropped off at her college, Hannah leaves her old backpack from school as a parting gift for her mother as she leaves to start her new life.