Even in its best intentions to twist your psyche, The Forgotten--about a grieving mother who may or may not be having a psychotic breakdown--eventually turns into a bad episode of The Twilight Zone.
Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is an anguished mother, tormented by the memory of her eight-year-old son Sam who apparently died in a plane crash some 14 months before. Soon, she becomes convinced her estranged husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards), is trying to force her to let go of their son by erasing him completely from their lives, i.e. getting rid of pictures, videotapes--until she is told by her husband, and by her psychiatrist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), that she is suffering from delusions, that her son never existed and she is fabricating his memories. Bummer. Of course, she doesn't believe it, as she hunts for anything that would prove Sam's existence, including contacting Ash Correll (Dominic West), who she believes is the father of one of the other plane crash victims; oddly enough, he's experiencing his own ''did I have a daughter?'' dilemma. This is where the film begins to lose credibility. As Telly and Ash team up in search of their children--and their sanity--they are suddenly getting chased around New York City by government agents (that's got to be your first clue), which eventually leads them into something, well, um, otherworldly. But that's as far as I go--wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.
No one doubts Julianne Moore is a great actress. When given the right material, she can emote with the best of them. This year, however, in the material she's chosen--including the dismal romantic comedy Laws of Attraction and now The Forgotten--Moore is unfortunately batting zero for two. Forgotten starts out promising, as Moore digs in and shows a woman struggling with the loss of her child; it's heartbreaking and certainly the kind of tortured character Moore is adept at playing. But once the action veers off into psychological weirdness, Telly's suffering doesn't seem as relevant, turning Moore's performance into something more staged and over the top than poignant. She does look good running around, though, which is fortunate since she does it a lot in this movie--around buildings, in alleys, down streets, in abandoned airplane hangers. It's exhausting, to tell you the truth. As far as the rest of the cast, however, they seem to be mostly sleepwalking, except for a few bright moments by West (HBO's The Wire)--if only they had her same energy.
Is it a drama about losing a child? Or is it a mind bender about governmental experiments and conspiracies? Apparently, screenwriter Gerald DiPego came up with The Forgotten from a dream in which he saw a family photograph--a mother, a father and a young son--with the image of the son slowly fading until it completely disappeared. This must have lead to the question: In the face of losing a child, can one let go completely and in essence, forget, or in turn, even make up an entire imaginary life? That's certainly a compelling premise. But the filmmakers couldn't decide on what kind of movie The Forgotten should become. Suspense director Joseph Ruben (The Good Son, Sleeping With the Enemy) obviously likes the psychological thriller aspects. He wants the audience to jump around, to shock them as Telly starts to unravel the mystery (a strategically placed car crash is particularly effective), but once you understand where the film is heading, it's nothing more than a disappointment. Not so much the actual reason, which if you analyze it--and you will--could have been a movie onto itself without all the drama. It's just the fact the film combines both genres without allowing enough time to explore them.
Although Julianne Moore does another good job pouring her heart out, The Forgotten just doesn't quite hold up as either a gut-wrenching tale of loss or a convincing psychological thriller.