What’s the one sorrow one never gets over? Loss of a child.
It’s so horrifying to even contemplate that childless-by-choice
folks can generally empathize. There’s a saying, reputedly
Chinese, something along the lines of “Father dies before
the son—sad. Son dies before the father—tragic.”
It’s been a little over a year since Telly Paretta (Moore)
lost her son Sam, but she still has daily sessions of caressing
the things in his dresser and watching videos of him. Her patient
husband Jim (Edwards) is, well, patient, and her
psychiatrist, Dr. Munce (Sinise), asks well-meaning
questions about the quality and quantity of her grief. Beyond these
two, Telly has pretty much given up on human contacts, until the
night she encounters Ash (West), who lost his daughter
in the same plane crash that killed Sam.
At first, when Telly speaks to him about his loss, it just seems
that Ash’s responses are off because he’s pretty wasted.
But if you’ve seen the trailer you know the premise of The
Forgotten—no one remembers Sam or any of these children
except Telly. So what’s going on here is a sort of un-ghost
story. Evidences of Sam’s brief life begin disappearing and
people deny his existence even as Telly steadfastly clings to his
memory and her grief.
The Forgotten is a thriller for grown-ups, except…
it doesn’t thrill. In fact it’s amazing for its utter
lack of affect. As the story unfolds, you get no sense of urgency
or creepiness as traces of Sam fade from this earthly plane, feel
no painful sympathy with the bereaved mother, experience no thrill
of fear as the plot thickens. The main interest of The Forgotten
is the guessing game, as you try to think of what explanation there
could be for the phenomena you’re witnessing. I wish that
I could have read The Forgotten, rather than watched it.
It would make a heck of an Encyclopedia Brown story. To their credit,
director Joseph Ruben and screenwriter Gerald
Di Pego (Angel Eyes) play fair with the audience,
providing enough information to figure out the how and the what,
reserving the mystery of the why for your entertainment. The why,
while a bit of a letdown, is, when you think on it after, a quite
reasonable sort of thing that probably happens quite often.
I’ve seen Moore in some bad movies but I’ve never
seen a bad Moore performance, and she maintains her high standard
here. Dominic West was so good as Moore’s sidekick that I
ran home to look up where I’d seen him before (getting murdered
by Renee Zellweger in Chicago). And it's
always nice to see an intelligent cop (Woodard).
To the writer’s discredit, The Forgotten is sloppily
told, with loose ends and plot inconsistencies. Plus, its trailer
gave away something I would rather not have known was coming. Nice
try, but this is not the engrossing mystery we’ve been waiting
for. Damn, I had high hopes for this movie.