The Forgotten Review
WARNING: This review may contain spoilers.
The Forgotten centres on Julianne Moore, here playing a mother still mourning the loss of her nine year old son who had died in a plane crash over a year ago. In order to cope with the grief she has been visiting a shrink, played Gary Sinise, but soon he’s insisting that her child never existed. What’s more, the memories of other people, including her husband (Anthony Edwards), no longer contain a single thought of him, whilst his image has unexplainably been removed from all photographs and home movies. Has she, as Sinise believes, got “paramnesia” (an invention of the filmmakers?) or gone insane, or is there, perhaps, a wider conspiracy at work, one that involves the FBI and maybe even extra terrestrial forces?
The various twists, revelations and explanations aren’t the key to The Forgotten’s success, however (although they will no doubt split audiences), rather the tease that comes before them proves more affecting. In this respect the casting of Moore is quite a coup. At first it seems odd to have someone best known for their leftfield associations (films with Robert Altman, the Coen brothers and Todd Haynes amongst others) appearing in what is essentially a generic work. Indeed, the cynical may suggest that Moore merely accepted the part as it was a leading role, rare currency for an actress of her age. But The Forgotten needs someone of her talent and stature in order for the character’s bereavement to work; if this fails then the audience knows that the questions of her sanity are nothing more than red herrings, and as such would appear mere add ons to an overwrought piece of science fiction. Had a younger, less experienced starlet taken on the role then no doubt this would have been the end result.
Which means that it comes as a slight disappointment that Joseph Ruben’s direction isn’t quite able to sustain this tease. He does have a pair of very good films to his credit, namely 1986’s The Stepfather and 1989’s True Believer (aka Fighting Justice), but his is an oeuvre largely dictated by trash, either consciously so (the irresistible Dreamscape) or, as is more common, not (Sleeping With the Enemy, The Good Son). With Moore as its lead The Forgotten is a little too classy to fall into the former category and as such runs the risk of joining the already over-populated ranks of the latter. I’m not suggesting that it needs to be more knockabout - after all, the gist of its manner is the seventies paranoid thriller as seen through the spectre of The X Files - but if it had then Ruben’s heavy handedness wouldn’t have been quite so damaging. It would appear as though he believed the audience would never be able to make the leaps of faith which the narrative demands and as such signals them furiously. Ominous is the key word here with odd cloud formations, disquieting aural rumbles occupying the rear channels and James Horner’s sparse piano and solo string instrument score occupying the front. Moreover, he overplays the ‘eye of God’ camera angles to such a degree that when minor supporting players are sucked up into the heavens it comes as little genuine surprise. It’s not all bad news, however, what with Moore being ably supported by a fine array of (admittedly underused in some instances) character actors and a downplayed autumnal New York setting that goes some way to evening out Ruben’s more overt excesses. But the hope of a superior sci-fi entry that Moore’s presence suggests is not as fully repaid as could be expected.
Unsurprisingly, The Forgotten arrives on disc with a fine anamorphic transfer and crisp DD5.1 sound. The latter is superb, the filmmakers having smothered the film with various sound effects and other aural quilting, all of which comes across flawlessly. The picture quality is slightly less perfect, with the heavy use of filters resulting in a very inky look. Certainly, in the brightly lit moments there is not a single flaw, but during the darker scenes it is, at times, difficult to maintain your bearings.
A handful of extras accompany the main feature, but these rarely rise above the ordinary. The commentary, by director Ruben and writer Gerald DiPego uses the available time to the fullest but never really enlightens. Ruben’s discussion of his filmmaking techniques is largely redundant as his style for this particular film is so transparent (we know that askew angles are being used to make scenes look a little bit weirder), whilst DiPego’s contribution consists mainly of his describing the plotting. The problem with this is that everything is pretty much self-explanatory already, although Ruben does note that “only the writer would think this movie makes sense”, so perhaps there are others who share his sentiment.
The pair also crop up on the two featurettes, one entitled ‘On the Set’ and lasting 14 minutes, the other a 20-minute piece called ‘Remembering The Forgotten’. The former is standard EPK fluff that allows the various assembled cast and crew members the input of only one or two sentences and the bulks out this material with on-set footage and the theatrical trailer. Any gaps (however inadequately the rest has been covered) are given their time in the second featurette, namely the pre-production stages and the SFX work, but this is a poorly structured piece and ultimately unsatisfying.
The remaining pieces are a batch of trailers (worthy for allowing us to all make a mental note of avoiding Frankenfish in the future) and three deleted scenes. One is entirely superfluous, another provides an alternative ending that isn’t all that different from the one we already have (certainly, the end results are identical), and the last, entitled ‘The Kiss’, provides the film with an explicit romantic subplot that could have changed the tone of the entire picture. As such it is, of all the extras, the only addition of any genuine interest.
All extras, including the commentary, come with optional English, Dutch and Spanish subtitles.