Forgotten, The

Julianne Moore goes all X-Files

Main Cast: Julianne Moore, Anthony Edwards, Alfre Woodard, Gary Sinise, Linus Roache

Director: Joseph Ruben

I miss The X-Files. Elaborate conspiracies, a dogged team of investigators willing to wallow in the unexplainable and search for the answers, no matter how unlikely, the supernatural weirdness that permeates almost every episode, the yummy goodness of David Duchovny…… Yeah, I miss all those things. But sometimes I can almost recapture the feeling, once in awhile I’ll catch something that has the aura of The X-Files – even without Mulder and Scully. Though I didn’t expect it going in, The Forgotten gives me a little pleasant twinge of nostalgia for those lovely days of conspiracies and the paranormal. All that and it isn’t a completely awful movie, either.

Telly (Julianne Moore) is a mother fourteen months into the grieving process for her deceased 9-year-old son. She’s not bouncing right out of her sadness, spending time each day wrapped in the warm memories of her child – watching videos, looking at pictures, spending time in his room. She hurts as she does these things, but she remembers, and she needs to hold onto those memories, they’re what she has left. She can’t let him go and doesn’t want anyone to suggest that she do so – he was her child and she will hold his memory forever. Until one day when someone steals it from her. It’s gone. All of it. Her mementos of his short life erased from existence, her loved ones telling her that she never had a child. She is, understandably, distraught. As any good thriller heroine knows, the only thing to do now is go on the run, trying to prove that you’re not crazy.

This film has taken some grief for, well, sucking. But it doesn’t, not really. You just have to fit your expectations to the level of movie making we’re talking about here. We’ve gotten used to the convoluted twists and turns so omnipresent in most thrillers that when a story is more linear, more about the characters and the situation than providing a “surprise”, we’re disappointed. The main theme here of a mother refusing to let go of her child, despite enormous pressure to do just that, is captured well within a nicely surreal setting. The mystery/thriller aspects are pretty straight up – like an extended X-Files episode. Nothing earth shatteringly original, but well enough done to have some scary moments and maintain some tension. What sells the film are the stars. Or in this case, the star. Julianne Moore is never less than believable as a grieving mother who will do anything to cling to what she has left of her son. Her own life – and putting that life at risk – has little meaning to her. She has been to hell with the death of her only child – personal safety pales in the face of losing her only tenuous remaining connection to her son. We believe that she would face down this puzzle on her own, that her drive is fierce enough to propel her to take enormous chances. Moore, always good, makes this character work. We feel for her, we want her to find something resembling peace. She isn’t the greatest character ever conceived, nor is this the jewel in Moore’s career crown, but she does an admirable job making us feel this woman’s pain.

The rest of the cast is quite bland and boring. Anthony Edwards as Mr. Julianne Moore seems exactly like what he is, a TV actor swimming with the big fish on the big screen. He’s a little lost and more than a little dull. Dominic West as the requisite “partner” that ends up helping Telly is also out of his league. A decent performance, but overwrought in a way that Moore deftly avoids – making his character stand out and look hammy and heavy handed. Alfre Woodard puts in a nice turn as a police detective – the role is small but she handles it well. Criminally underused as always, she does give this role some spark. Gary Sinise is forgettable as a psychiatrist trying to convince Telly she’s crazy. Besides Moore, the only real stand out is Linus Roache as a “friendly man” (and no, you get no more than that about this character). He’s creepy in a subtle way that escalates – his stare alone makes him more than worthy of the role.

The special effects also deserve a mention here. No, they aren’t Lord of the Rings caliber or anything, they’re just sort of fun. The design team makes sure that you’re surprised each and every time the main effect is used – and it isn’t over-used. It’s clever and gasp-worthy and visually extremely well done. There is also a quite remarkably done car accident. You don’t see it coming at all, and the entire thing is filmed from inside the car. Another gasp-worthy moment made out of something that could have been really mundane and ordinary in the realm of movie effects.

The DVD contains both the original theatrical version and an extended version with an alternate ending. Personally, I would rather that they had simply put the alternate ending in as an extra – the extended version has no necessary pieces to the ending and having to sift through it to get a glimpse at the other possible outcome is annoying. The alternate ending itself ended up where it deserved to be – on the cutting room floor. The theatrical ending is far more in keeping with the characters as established and has a nice little touch of irony missing from the alternative. If you have to choose between the two in deciding which version to watch in total, stick with the theatrical release.

The Forgotten, while it isn’t a masterpiece of modern horror or suspense or, well, anything, is a solid entry into the thriller genre. A genre sadly lacking in entries even remotely solid. The premise is sort of gut level gripping – especially for anyone with children – and Moore’s performance makes the main character, and the story as a whole, work. Despite some lackluster supporting characters and performances, the film pulls it together with fun special effects and a satisfying denouement. The Forgotten is a good popcorn movie – if you can suspend your disbelief, you too can wallow in a little X-File-ish nostalgia. If only Mulder had been there……

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