Wrap your brain around this one. It has been 14 months since grieving mother Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) lost her son, Sam, in a plane crash that took the lives of 10 other children. She’s been seeing a psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) on a regular basis, and the shrink has helped her cope with her sadness as the two discuss how difficult it is to let memories of loved ones fade.
Until one day, when all the physical mementos of Sam actually do disappear from Telly’s life. Photo albums once filled with snapshots are now blank. Actual fade or Photoshop trick? Drawers that held baseball gloves and caps are now empty. Something wicked this way comes.
Telly confronts her husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards), but he cautiously informs her they never had a child. It was a false memory that Telly invented to cope with a traumatic event she endured months ago. Her doctor confirms it, but Telly can’t accept it. We begin to question her sanity, but right around the time we start to think she’s going crazy, Telly comes in contact with Ash (Dominic West), a booze-hungry former hockey player who says he lost his daughter on the same flight. He remembers their children, and he wants to help Telly figure out what’s going on.
Pulled from the tattered remnants of either The Twilight Zone or The X-Files (take your pick), Joseph Ruben’s psychological free-for-all The Forgotten takes huge strides through a dense, dark, and foreboding forest of secrets and lies. Tall trees that represent everything from “government conspiracy” to “confusing mind games” shade any source that could and should shed light on the film’s thin mysteries.
And it works, for a while. Moore and West’s rocky road deserves deeper emotional peaks and valleys, though the two end up being emotionless game pieces locked in a fevered hunt for the truth. The admirable Alfre Woodard ties up a few loose ends as an inquisitive detective assigned to the case. And Ruben, an aerial shot junkie, packs more than a few physical jolts that will lift your ass inches from your seat.
Just when you’re led to believe that Forgotten has found its kinetic stride, though, it places its cinematic boot into a puddle of mud so deep, you fear that when all is said and done, a shoe, sock, and possibly a foot will have to be sacrificed over to the muck to make all right with the world. Shady agents from the NSA slide in and cause problems. Featureless drone Linus Roache adds ambiguity to an already-confusing plotline. You may think you have Forgotten figured out, but unless you’ve trained your sights on anal probing, you really have no idea how crazy this tale eventually gets. Which is fine, so long as there’s a solid thread that stitches the whole thing together. So, does Forgotten have one? Truth be told, I can’t remember.
She’s in the book — literally!
Review by Sean O’Connell © 2004 filmcritic.com