Shocking Thriller Adapted From John Searles’ Bestselling Novel

Some films are hard to classify under strict genre guidelines. Strange But True falls in that category. What begins as a darkly textured drama about an unhappy family suddenly twists into a clever thriller almost out of nowhere.

Based on John Searles’ bestselling novel, stars Greg Kinnear, Brian Cox, and Blythe Danner lead a talented ensemble cast in this startling rumination on life and death. A young woman on the verge of giving birth is at the center of Strange But True’s uneasy maelstrom of human drama. What should be a joyous occasion raises troubling questions for a family broken by tragedy.

The twisting thriller begins with an unsettling premise that lets you know from the start that something is off. A strained family is caught up in dark secrets when their deceased son’s girlfriend, five years removed from his death in a prom accident, arrives on their doorstep informing them she’s pregnant with his child. Which can’t possibly be true, right? The ensuing investigation unearths troubling and wildly shocking developments.

Strange But True provides a provocative examination of coping with grief and loss, only to evolve into a surprisingly taut psychological thriller

The young Melissa (Margaret Qualley) is nine months pregnant, claiming she’s only been with her high school boyfriend Ronnie. Dead for five years, it’s a preposterous claim that shocks Ronnie’s mother and brother, both of whom have fallen apart after Ronnie’s unexpected death.

The idea intrigues his younger brother Philip (Nick Robinson). Their mother Charlene (Amy Ryan) is irate, having grown bitter and angry after Ronnie’s death. Her marriage to Dr. Richard Chase (Greg Kinnear) fell apart in the aftermath, leaving her a shell of herself.

Director Rowan Athale’s richly crafted thriller is a murky tale of secrets and half-truths, constructed around deception and misdirection. Eccentric but believable characters are woven together in a tapestry of emotional drama. The air of mystery cleverly comes together in an unforgettable twist, even if the entire premise is flipped on its head with a shocking change in tone from harrowing family drama to suspenseful thriller.

Strange But True provides a provocative examination of coping with grief and loss, only to evolve into a surprisingly taut psychological thriller. The plot requires patience to see any payoff and needs a few logic-bending plot devices to get there. Some viewers may struggle with the pivotal twist and sudden change in tone. Rowan Athale’s movie is cleverly sad and haunting with a capable cast.


Movies these days rarely seem to embrace the more conventional lighting schemes from the celluloid days as an ideal aesthetic. The new Canadian production evokes an oddly film-like cinematography missing from today’s starkly digital cinema. Eschewing the glossy, razor-sharp “digital” video of today’s Hollywood, Strange But True embraces a more retro film aesthetic with softer imagery and less shadow delineation. It looks more like a thriller made in 2005 than 2019.

Courtesy of Lionsgate, the main feature runs over 95 minutes on a BD-25. The middling AVC encode gets the job done but isn’t flawless, allowing some minor chroma noise. Murky shadow delineation and heavier black levels help reduce the clarity below today’s movies with pumped-up contrasts and white-hot highlights. The 2.39:1 presentation has enough detail and definition for 1080P video, but isn’t going to win any videophile awards. The overall cinematography prefers a darker, more muted palette without actually draining any color saturation.


The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is a fine effort for what is principally a dialogue-driven drama until the action finally heats up. The score is nicely spread out over the entire soundstage with a decent sense of immersion. The most suspenseful moments have more discrete audio, offering better rear action and separation. Strange But True’s surround mix is serviceable with just enough bass and top-end extension, without ever becoming extraordinary.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a white font, inside the scope presentation at all times.


Lionsgate provides a single featurette as the movie’s lone special feature. A glossy slipcover is available. The included digital copy redeems in HDX quality. You have your choice of digital providers: iTunes, Google Play, FandangoNow, or Vudu.

Grounded in Reality: Making Strange but True Featurette (16:15 in HD) – Director Rowan Athale and author John Searles discuss how the story and its characters work. They delve into each character’s motivations and other salient factors. The only cast member to make an appearance here is Amy Ryan. Fairly standard EPK featurette with a bit more detail and analysis than usual.

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Trailer (02:32 in HD) – Selectable from the menu and also plays before the menu appears.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Strange But True
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The clever thriller’s shocking twist mostly works, handled by a talented ensemble cast that knows their way around a movie.

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