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The Forgotten (2004)
Director: Joseph Rubin

review by Tony Lee

Telly Paretta (a great performance from Julianne Moore) has lost her young son, Sam (Christopher Kovaleski), in a still-unsolved air crash. Consumed by the frustrations of grief, and trapped in a psychological prison of her own memories, she gets comfort and support but precious little understanding from husband Jim (Anthony Edwards), an amiable but emotionally-vacant office worker. He seems too eager to abdicate his spousal responsibilities and turn his utterly depressed and despairing wife over to the psychiatric care of Dr Jack Munce (Gary Sinise), who like nearly all shrinks in Hollywood movies, simply cannot be trusted.

After the Paretta family's photo album is found empty and Telly's treasured home videos of Sam at play are erased, she is naturally outraged at what she suspects is Jim's callous disregard for her feelings. However, the truth of the matter is rather more sinister than that, because now ex-father Jim insists they never had a son. Desperate to find proof of her offspring's existence, Telly contacts another bereaved parent, Ash Correll (Dominic West), who had previously escaped the sorrows of losing his daughter by drinking himself into a stupor. Only now, much to Telly's astonishment, Mr Correll claims he never had a daughter. What first appears to be a straightforward case of selective amnesia quickly gains all the weirdness of an X-Files' style conspiracy, as NSA agents try to arrest the distraught Telly. And, later, NYPD Detective Anne Pope (ever-dependable Alfre Woodard) finds far too many questions and not enough answers when she begins to investigate Telly's claims about the baffling absence of any evidence of Sam's life, or death, and has growing concern over Telly's wild accusations of inexplicable 'abductions'.

When troubled Telly confronts Jim for the last time, he doesn't recognise her at all, and from then onwards we are lost in the twilight zone where nothing is quite what it seems. Of course, there's a mysterious stranger (Linus Roache), hovering around in the background, and he's clearly following Telly's progress as she tries to uncover what's happened to her son. This smiling stranger operates above the laws of state and nation and, in some bizarre instances, defies the laws of nature, too...

A creditably feminist drama about the powerful bond between mother and child, The Forgotten, is blessed with Moore's solidly believable heroine, and a welcome reliance on compelling central performances and unobtrusive direction instead of overt special effects. Although the film boasts a few highly spectacular visuals, including a couple of genuinely scary moments to make every avidly sympathetic viewer jump, in his or her seat, the filmmaker's satisfyingly low-key approach to the engrossing material belies the wholly familiar genre territory that's being re-explored here. This is a well-crafted and unassuming thriller, from the director of Dreamscape (1984), and The Stepfather (1987), that's definitely worth your attention.
The Forgotten

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