The Forgotten Review
Julianne Moore suffers beautifully, which is fortunate given that this is what she’s required to do for most of the running time of The Forgotten. The supreme sufferers among actresses in modern cinema are Liv Ullmann and Mia Farrow, but Moore comes a very respectable third place. We’ve cried with her through The End of the Affair, clenched our fists while waiting for her to stop weeping in Magnolia and empathised with her plight in trying to make something out of the script for Laws of Attraction. At her best, she’s a fine actress with a poised command and the gift of looking both beautiful and intelligent. But all too often she’s used for her ability to go into hysterics at the drop of the proverbial hat and one suspects that this accounts for her appearance in The Forgotten.
The plot is, at first, genuinely intriguing. Telly Paretta (Moore) is a bereaved mother trying to get over the recent death of her son Sam in a plane crash, supported by her somewhat confused husband Jim (Edwards) and all-wise shrink Dr Munce (Sinise). One day, she looks at a beloved picture of the family only to discover, to her horror, that her son no longer appears in it. When confronting her husband about this, he tells her that they never had a son, information which is confirmed by Dr Munce. Meeting Ash (West), the father of a classmate of Sam’s who also died, she is baffled to find that he denies knowledge of his daughter’s existence. But a visit to his apartment leads to a shocking discovery and Telly soon realises that a vast conspiracy is afoot, one to which most of the world is blind.
When a set-up is as good as this, it’s almost inevitable that the explanation is going to be a disappointment, and so it is here. After about half an hour or so, you’ll have worked out roughly what’s happening and after an hour, you’ll probably be ready to leave. The things which keep you watching are quite simple; the acting and the direction. Julianne Moore is badly used in this film – she sniffles and whines endlessly – but she has such a magnetic screen presence that you can’t help watching her and wanting to know what she will do next. Gary Sinise is fabulous as the slightly creepy Dr Munce and Dominic West is equally good as the rather sad, alcoholic Ash. Most surprisingly, Linus Roach, playing a character known as “A Friendly Man” comes across with a performance which is thoroughly sinister and he gets a couple of the few decent shock moments in the film.
As for the direction, it’s professional and quite well paced. Joseph Ruben was never a great filmmaker but his early films – the marvellously unnerving The Stepfather and the stirring courtroom drama True Believer - were well crafted genre pictures which stood out for their wit and intelligence. Since then he’s plodded away on nonsense like Money Train and it’s nice to see him back on form with The Forgotten. He creates an intense atmosphere which just about overcomes the fact that the plotting is terribly predictable – not to mention that the film is largely one long chase scene which gradually begins to go round in circles. Mention should also be made of the superb, beautifully autumnal cinematography and James Horner's delicate music score.
I quite enjoyed The Forgotten for its atmospherics and occasional shock moments but it’s never anything more than a well made piece of junk which has a higher opinion of itself than it should. Gerald Di Pego’s screenplay has some awfully pretentious dialogue with built-in pauses which are obviously meant to be Pinteresque but actually just point up the fact that what’s been said is pretty ludicrous. His decision to keep things slightly elliptical is also a mistake – considering how straightforward the explanation turns out to be - and we end up with a feature length equivalent of one of those episodes of “The X-Files” which kept piling on the ominous hints of conspiracy without ever getting to the point. I also refuse to forgive him – or Ruben for that matter – for the ending, which is one of the most unpalatably sentimental, not to mention illogical, conclusions I’ve seen for a long time. Anyone with an aversion to excess sugar might want to leave five minutes before the end.
Last updated: 23/05/2018 04:58:43