The Forgotten (**½)

Posted on October 8th, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

We went into The Forgotten knowing almost nothing about it other than what we saw on the few, brief trailers we had seen on television. We had a day off, headed to the theater, and decided to let fate play a hand by picking the next available, acceptable movie, which turned out to be The Forgotten. The film stars Julianne Moore, Gary Sinise, Anthony Edwards, and Dominic West, and follows the travails of Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore’s character) as she attempts to deal with the grief of losing her son in a plane crash.

One of the other parents at her local park, named Ash Correll (played by Dominic West), also lost his daughter in the same crash, which was of a plane headed to a summer camp that both kids were going to attend. They do a little reserved commiserating, but really only know each other distantly as parents of one of their kids acquaintances.

Telly is undergoing psychotherapy to help with her grief. Her doctor is played by Gary Sinise. She has been fixated on her son’s death for the nearly two years since it happened, spending several hours a day in his room, pulling his belongings out to look at, watching videotapes of him, and generally not getting on with life on the schedule that those around her would consider normal.

But then, one day, she has either a breakthrough or a breakdown, where her husband and doctor tell her that she never had a son, and that all of her memories of him are delusional and were brought about by a miscarriage that caused her to snap. Based on the film up until this point, it seems obvious that they are trying to pull one over on her, and I started to get quite annoyed that she didn’t just go down to her son’s school and ask any of the 200 kids there if they remembered him.

But she doesn’t do anything like that, at least not at first. But over time she does. She eventaully talks to her neighbor, a fairly anonymous lady who we saw interacting with Telly’s son in flashback, but the neighbor appears not to know who she’s talking about. At this point I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, as this neighbor did not appear to be anyone that the husband/doctor could get to and convince her to play along with their charade.

Telly finally heads over to Ash’s apartment, which she had been to once before when her son and his daughter had a play date. At least, that’s what Telly remembers, but the guy has no recollection of her, her son, or his (alleged) daughter. When Telly vigorously attempts to convince him that he had a daughter, Ash surreptitiously calls the cops to come get this crazy lady out of his apartment and into some kind of help.

At this point I was confused enough to be very interested in just where the hell this story was going. The story wasn’t confusing in a sloppy way, but in a very deliberate way, that engaged me in the way that a well-done mystery does. As Telly is being escorted out of Ash’s place by the cops, some official looking feds show up, say they’re from the NSA, and take Telly into custody. That was a real head-spinner, and very unexpected. While this is going on, Ash has realized that Telly lit a slow fuse of recognition in him about his daughter, and suddenly all of his memories of her come flooding back. He races downstairs and manages to wrest Telly from the custody of the feds, and the chase is on.

At this point you may be thinking that I’m giving the whole story away. Believe me, I’m not. In fact, right up until this point in the film I was on the verge of walking out because the story seemed to be so implausible (even given the suspension of disbelief granted to films). But from this point on the movie starts moving in some very unexpected directions that make the story make a whole lot more sense.

These new directions also make this a much better film that it first appears to be. But overall it is ultimately disappointing because while the film is slightly above average, it could have easily been very good, or even great, if the creative forces behind it had just stuck to the artistic principals of the first 2/3 of the film. But the ending falls into the trite, simple, overblown, ridiculous ruts that seem to please studio execs and not scare middle-America, and so the very interesting first parts of the film are wasted. What a shame.

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