The Good Liar: Ending Explained (Book vs Movie)

Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. The Good Liar is a 2019 crime drama based on a book by the same name directed by Bill Condon. The film is centred on a conman trying to loot a naive old widow of all her wealth. The movie stars Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen in the leading roles, and oh, what a delight it is to watch them act. The film is not much, but it’s fascinating to see the chemistry the two of them bring between their characters. The plot has a bunch of twists and some non-linear narratives that raise a few questions. Here’s the plot summary and the ending of the movie The Good Liar explained; spoilers ahead.

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Contents

Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

The Good Liar: Plot Summary

Before we discuss the ending of The Good Liar, let’s do a quick walkthrough of the movie’s plot.

Hans Taub and Lili Schröeder’s Past

Hans Taub was a young German, an English tutor to a family; Lili is his student. One day Lili’s sisters tease Hans, who retaliates by kissing one of the sisters. He then goes upstairs and sexually assaults Lili. Hans is thrown out of the house by the girls’ father, not knowing what he has done to Lili.

Hans then denounces Lili’s father, who is killed by the Nazis, and their house is seized. Lili’s mother commits suicide leaving the sisters to fend for themselves. One day, a bomb kills lilies sisters, and Lili grows up all alone and abused by the invaders of war.

Eventually, Lili moves to England, has a family and grows old but never forgetting or forgiving Hans Taub. In the meanwhile, Hans grows tired of being in Germany and wants a fresh start. In one of Hans’ missions with a British officer named Roy Courtnay, they get shot at by a Nazi that they are trying to arrest. While Hans is not wounded fatally, Roy Courtnay’s face is shot off. Due to their facial similarities, Hans takes this opportunity to take on the identity of Roy and moves over to England while Hans Taub is proclaimed dead.

Who is Steven?

Many years later, Lili’s grandson’s partner, who happens to be an excellent researcher, figures out that Hans took on Roy’s identity and is now in England. They further discover that Hans is a conman and swindles people for a living and doesn’t hesitate to murder when confronted.

I’ll continue calling Lili and Hans by their real name going forward, but:

  • Roy Courtnay = Hans Taub 
  • Betty McLeish = Lili Schröeder

Steven and Lily hatch a plan

Lily poses as Betty, an old naive rich widow and enlists herself on an elderly dating portal. As expected, Hans approaches her on the portal and attempts to win her trust. Lily allows Hans to think that he is tricking her. Steven poses as Lili’s suspicious grandson. Hans’ partner in crime, Vincent, tries to get Lily to pool her savings with Hans’ so that they can empty her out. The first attempt is unsuccessful as Lili asks for time to think about it. 

Later, Lili fakes a stroke, and her friend comes in posing as a doctor, saying she’s not going to survive for long if these medical events keep occurring. The tiny empathy factor allows Lili to get Hans to agree to go to Berlin, where he’s otherwise reluctant to come.

berlin steven roy is taub

In Berlin, Steven joins them to show them around. He takes Lili and Hans to the place the real Roy Courtnay was shot dead. Steven tries to corner Hans by narrating the story of how Hans took on another man’s identity. He does this to throw ‘Roy’ off and get him to admit that his identity was fake. Now I believe Hans is not a Nazi but abandoned his post and faked his identity (also, he’s an illegal immigrant). Hans simply wanted to leave Germany and start anew. However, if authorities get to know this, Hans’ conman crimes would be revealed and would lead to his arrest. Lili accepts Hans’ explanation and acts like she’s disgusted by Steven for being too nosy, and asks to leave Berlin to go back home.

On the day prior, Lili secretly visits her old home and head up to her room to access a secret compartment on the flooring to pull out her locket with has a lock of Hans’ hair which got caught the day he assaulted her. This hair is DNA evidence that Roy is actually Hans Taub. 

The Joint Account

This event gives Hans a sense of victory over Steven. He feels, despite his true identity, Lili trusts him fully. Back in England, Lili agrees to poll her funds with Roy in a joint account. In private, Vincent suggests to Hans that they leave a little money for Lili as he genuinely believes this is a sick woman named Betty. Hans is greedy and disagrees; he wants to take all of her wealth, leaving nothing for her medical needs.

Vincent creates the joint account, but Lili is hesitant to transfer all of her funds. Seeing this, Hans moves his entire net worth as a symbol of trust. Following this, Lili wires everything she’s got. In this scene, Lili is looking for Hans to transfer all his money, and the reason she acts like she’s hesitating is to get Hans to go all in.

Roy leaves Betty

roy leaves betty

While this is disclosed only later in the film, Steven meets with Vincent and threatens him with a heavy lawsuit. Vincent is helpless and returns all of Lili’s money back to her. The joint account is left with only Hans’ funds now. Meanwhile, Hans packs up and takes his secure keypad, and puts it in his bag. Under the pretext of going to meet his estranged son, Hans leaves Lili. By then, Lili slips the keypad out of Han’s bag. For a short moment at the train station, Hans appears to want to stop and stay back with Lily. It seems that he might have fallen in love with Betty (Lili). But this is only because Lili has been acting so well. She wants to punish him and urges him to leave.

At his home, Hans realizes that his key card is not with him and Vincent is unreachable. Frustrated, he goes all the way back to Lily’s place, where she waits for him in an emptied-out house.

The Good Liar Ending Explained

the good liar ending scene

The ending of The Good Liar reveals that Betty is Lili, the girl Hans (Roy) once raped; he then denounced her father, causing Lili’s life to be wrecked. Lili takes her revenge by withdrawing every penny Hans owns and leaves him with the debt of $100,000 that he owes one of the people he conned earlier. The two men Hans crossed show up asking for their money. When Hans refuses, they beat him silly. The physical trauma is so intense that it causes a stroke leaving Hans paralyzed and in a hospital for the remainder of his days.

The Good Liar Ending: Details from the book

The Good Liar book states that Roy (Hans) was indeed a Nazi and faked his identity to escape. Vincent’s character, in the book, is shown to be a Jew. When Lili and Steven approach Vincent with evidence that Roy is actually Hans Taub, a Nazi, Vincent is furious and changes sides and helps bring Roy down.

One thing does bother me, though. Lili tells Hans that she went to her house in Berlin and retrieved her locket with his hair on it. I’m not sure what good that would be. All the officials can do is match that hair to a person named Roy (or to nobody). I’m not sure if a DNA record would have existed for Hans Taub. There is nothing that the hair can do to disprove the Roy identity. If it is merely to verify that Roy is Hans, they got him confessing to that. I’m not sure why Lili brings up the locked in that ending scene. Thoughts?

What were your opinions about The Good Liar and the ending, do drop a comment below.

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