Imagine someone telling your mother, “But you never HAD a child.” Now imagine whether or not you were actually alive to have heard it.
Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is a mother with a problem. She’s lost a child and is having trouble letting go, and even with support from her husband (Anthony Edwards) and her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise), the fact that no evidence of her child’s passing has ever been found prevents her closure. Already at the edge of despair, Telly life is further turned upside down when all remaining evidence of her child starts to disappear, including the memories of others who knew him. Is she losing her mind, did she ever even have a child, or is something more sinister and powerful at work in her life?
Full disclosure: Julianne Moore is not one of my favorite actresses. Her attempts at comedy have left me cold (endure Evolution for details) and generally cries a lot the rest of the time. So it is no small thing that I say that she is the heart and soul that lifts The Forgotten from direct-to-video fare and into something genuinely interesting. With the additional casting of Anthony Edwards, Gary Sinise, and Alfre Woodard, Moore is in good company to keep the mood sinister through to the end.
Of course, there are only so many ways a story like this can go without losing the audience completely (she’s really insane, conspiracies, alternate or fake universes), but unlike Tom Cruise’s remake of Vanilla Sky, this one pays off because what is happening is made to really matter. The credit has to go to Moore as a mother who refuses to let go at any price, even her own peace of mind. The film almost seems built around her performance to bring it up to her level of belief, even when it comes to some truly disturbing special effects that would otherwise seem silly.
Unfortunately, the ending of the theatrical cut (which I can only hope may be different on DVD later) is exactly one scene too long. Without really giving anything away, things end unnecessarily happily, and not that Moore’s character doesn’t deserve it, it just doesn’t make enough sense to justify it. Unlike a Hitchcock ending (just because you know doesn’t mean it’ll stop), solving the problem seems to undo all the damage, no matter how ludicrous it appears. If a character has just willingly suffered and lost in order to succeed, what’s the point if none of it counted?
While it makes no sense that an athlete who breaks their arm making a game-winning score suddenly has a healthy arm simply for winning, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great game (nor would the athlete be exactly complaining). While The Forgotten does drop the ball in the epilogue, the previous 95% is well worth viewing for Moore’s performance if nothing else. But the real question after the credits roll is, “How far would YOU go?”
(a three skull recommendation out of four)