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"Just tell me where my son is!"
on 30 January 2005
The Forgotten is a surprisingly entertaining thriller, most notable for the performance of Julianne Moore who readily throws herself into the role with her customary abandon and bravado. Part psuedo science fiction, and part supernatural mystery, the producers can probably be forgiven for the many plot holes, and unanswered questions; also, you know there's really a problem when malevolent looking federal agents try to cover up the evidence with mere wallpaper. But the movie is certainly beautiful to look at with the gorgeous Julianne constantly bathed in ghostly and ethereal hues of blue and grey that contrast startlingly with her fiery red hair- there's also some fabulous aerial views of New York City, the symbolic significance of which becomes obvious later in the movie.
Questions of loss, grief, and the special union between mother and son form the thematic center of the Forgotten, as Moore plays Telly Paretta, a woman haunted by the memory of her son Sam. The child died in plane 14 months ago, and her worried and affectionate husband, played by Anthony Edwards, and her composed, consoling psychiatrist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), try in vain to help her cope with her sudden loss. She constantly watches a video of Sam, moons over photographs of him, and lovingly touches a baseball mitt that he left behind. Telly is obviously exploring the emotional pain and grief experienced by a mother, and is trying desperately to move on. She's recently decided to return to her job as a freelance editor.
It soon becomes clear that things are not as they seem. Sam's image mysteriously begins to disappear from the photographs, and then her husband, her doctor, and even her neighbors tell her that she never had a son. Telly is convinced they are wrong, and fiercely maintains that her son was real. One night, in the local leaf blown and windswept park, she meets the drunken Ash Correll (Dominic West), the father of a girl who was also supposedly killed in the same plane crash with Sam. She desperately tries to make him remember. Ash, a former professional hockey player, is drowning in booze and fiercely denies ever having a daughter. At first he thinks Telly is crazy but then he uncovers some evidence, and is forced to face up to the truth.
There's lots of gratuitous action - mostly a lot of running - interspersed with some quieter moments as Telly and Ash try to reconcile their differences and stay focused on finding out whether their children are really dead and where they might be hidden. There's also a constant eerie and peculiar atmosphere created as Telly becomes convinced that both her and Ash are constantly being watched by "something." The acting is pretty good, with Moore and West giving the strongest and most provocative performances, and the interplay between them full of tension, but also interspersed with some nice moments of quiet intimacy. Moore is particularly good - bring a blunt, gustiness to the role, and she is totally convincing as a mother who obviously had a very special bond with her son. Telly and Ashe are two very different people who normally wouldn't have had much to do with each other, but who have been flung together through monumental adversity.
The cinematography is quite beautiful and the film generally has a great sense of pacing. Viewers will find themselves trying to figure whether there is some grand conspiracy or not, and the eventual resolution, while surprising, still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. But with all its faults, The Forgotten is an interesting, mind twisting thriller, that effectively explores the intensity of memory, the sadness and desperation of grief, and how the human mind ultimately handles these intense emotions. Mike Leonard January 05.