|Friday, Mar 7, 2014, 06:03:07 PM|
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Memory lame: When it shifts from psychodrama to sci-fi, The Forgotten becomes forgettable
By Anthony Del Valle
The Forgotten is one of those psychological thrillers that keeps you on the edge of your seat until it starts to make sense. The more you understand what's really going on, the less you like it.
The opening moments show us a woman who appears to be in the early stages of grief. Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) stares at a photo of a beautiful 8-year-old boy sitting atop a dresser in her New York City apartment and mutters, "Sam." Soon she's in the office of her psychiatrist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), announcing proudly that she's been fixating on her dead son less and less lately. But she doesn't sound convincing. We find out the kid was killed in a plane crash 14 months ago, and she's practically shut out her husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards), to make room for her never-ending grief.
Just when we think this is going to be a film about how a couple comes to terms, we find out Telly never had a son. She's been fabricating memories of him--imagining his photos in scrapbooks and his images on blank videos--as a result of a miscarriage eight years ago. When she's finally confronted with her illness by her doctor and husband, she begins to believe she really is going crazy.
Just when we think this is going to be a film about how a woman tries to regain her sanity, we find out she may not be crazy after all. She meets a man in the park, Ash Correll (Dominic West), whom she recognizes as the father of one of her son's friends. His daughter was on the same ill-fated plane. But he too says that he never had a child, and that he's never met Telly before.
We start to smell conspiracy.
Up to this point, director Joseph Ruben sustains an ever-growing level of suspense. The performances are superb, particularly Moore, who is alternately victim and aggressor, and Alfre Woodward, as a detective who slowly puts the pieces of the puzzle together, projects a down-to-earth sensibility that is in sharp contrast to all the loonies around her. Anastas Michos' cinematography makes haunting images of the desolate fall/winter New York backdrop--particularly the scenes involving the Manhattan Bridge Overpass--as if to label the Big Bad City a co-conspirator.
But once the conspiracy takes hold, Gerald D. Pego's screenplay goes haywire. (I need to discuss the plot resolution here, folks, so if you don't want to know how the thing ends, I recommend go see the movie now and then come back later.)
The film's tone suddenly shifts from heightened realism to sci-fi fantasy. People start getting whisked up to the sky. Humans who aren't really humans get shot and don't get hurt. We find out that some higher power has come to Earth to figure out why a mother's bond to her child is so strong. That's why they've kidnapped the children on that plane and erased their parents' memories. Telly is said to be the only person who has remembered. But we never find out why it's Telly alone who has persevered. And we've already seen at least one father remember, so why does the creature say the experiment was about women? We never find out how it is that a memory-erasing technique can prove the strength of a parent's bond. (Do those who don't remember love their children any less?) And besides, even if it could, doesn't Terry being the only mother who does remember indicate that the bond isn't strong?
The Forgotten is competently made, but if there's one thing that's unforgivable in a psychological thriller, it's a plot that doesn't add up.