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Movie Review

The Forgotten

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, some violence and brief language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Science Fiction, Action, Thriller
Year of Release:
USA Release:

Featuring: Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Alfre Woodard, Anthony Edwards, Linus Roache
Director: Joseph Ruben
Producer: Joe Roth, Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks
Distributor: Revolution Studios

“On September 24th everything you’ve experienced, everything you’ve known, never happened.”

This is an incredible (as in “unbelievable”) SciFi flick. Of course, since ALL SciFi is unbelievable, I mean that this one is far-out compared to the genre standard.

In the opening, Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is still in grief over having lost her nine-year-old son Sam in a plane crash 14 months before. Her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) and her shrink Dr. Jack Munce (Gary Sinise) are as supportive as possible.

We see little clues that Telly is apparently forgetful. She thinks she parked her car on one side of the street, but it’s actually on the other side. At a therapy session, she says the coffee cup she was just drinking from has disappeared; Munce says she didn’t actually have coffee that day. But she can still taste the coffee. Munce says she’s just smelling HIS coffee, and creating a taste memory from the smell memory.

Then things begin to get really strange. Sam’s image disappears from a family photo. Then ALL his photos disappear, and videotapes of him become blank. When Telly confronts Jim about this, both he and Munce tell her that the albums and tapes were ALWAYS empty, that Sam never existed. He was stillborn, and she in her grief has been manufacturing an alternate life about him for the last ten years. Now that she’s finally recovering, Sam’s pictures are disappearing from her mind.

Copyright, Revolution Studios

The prior little clues about forgetfulness and confusion, plus the fact that even the library archive copies of the newspapers no longer contain stories about the plane crash, lead us to believe that Jim and Munce are right, that Telly is delusional. But anyone who’s seen the promo trailer knows it’s not that simple. Telly is on to something very weird. She eventually teams up with Ash Correll (Dominic West), who lost a daughter on the same plane crash. He’s in a pretty constant drunken state, and at first denies that he ever had a daughter. But later, prompted by Telly, he remembers. From there, the film takes on a Twilight Zone or X-Files atmosphere as Federal agents try to apprehend Telly and Ash, and a mysterious man (who can’t be killed and may be an Alien) repeatedly appears in front of them.

The entire cast turns in powerful performances. Moore, appearing without glamour makeup, is convincing as the mother who simply won’t let go. West is a brooding, multi-faceted supporting character. Edwards (who was a scene-stealer in Top Gun and is best known for his work on TV’s “ER”) does a great job with his limited screen time. Same for Sinise, and for Alfre Woodard as a Detective who wonders why the Feds are so interested in Telly.

The production values are very high. Everything looks and feels convincing. The theme music, the special effects, all big-budget. The only possible downside is the storyline itself. Some commentators are calling it derivative fluff. I’m withholding judgment.

Sex: In therapy, Munce asks Telly about the quality of her sex life; she avoids answering. When on the run, Telly and Ash share motel rooms, but avoid any sexual activity. Telly is seen in her underwear in one sequence.

Language: There’s one f*, about five uses of g*d* and about twenty other profanities. Considering the possibility that their children have been abducted and the government is covering it up, Telly and Ash are fairly restrained in their language. When profanity does occur, it stands out the more because it’s rare. But of course it’s not necessary at all.

Violence: Ash fights with Federal agents, captures one and threatens to torture him for information. The mysterious man is run over by a car, is shot, and falls from a great height, but all without injury. There are some other violent events that I can’t detail without giving away the bulk of the plot.

Other negative content: Ash drinks to forget the loss of his daughter, and apparently it’s worked (helped along by spooky forces, perhaps). BUT, after he regains his memories, and Telly confronts him with the fact that she needs him as a sober and in-control ally, he stops drinking.

The possibility that Earth is under the control of Aliens, we’re all at their mercy and no God protects us from them, is unscriptural on several levels. But going into a film like this, you have to suspend disbelief on that point. SciFi is often written as a parable of one major truth, even though it usually manages to teach occultism, Humanism, Feminism or New Age doctrine as well.

Positive content: The mother-child bond is exalted as a force that nothing can break. And at the ending, there’s a pro-life twist. A “memory thief” wants Telly’s “first memory” of Sam. He decides that that would be the memory of his birth. But even after that memory is stolen from her, she STILL remembers Sam, because she remembers back beyond that, to the time when life was growing inside of her.

Is this film worth seeing? If you like SciFi, and can handle edgy PG-13 material, suspense, heartbreak and some far-out twists, you’ll probably like it. For non-SciFi people, it will probably seem like a waste of a talented cast.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer Comments
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie, very good. Nothing to objectional, a few bad words, no sex or anything like that. It was pretty suspenseful, but not gory/gross scary. The mother/son bond was nice to see to. I give it two thumbs up.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Kriss, age 23
Positive—Wow, what an awesome movie! It was the best thriller I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed it immensely. WARNING—if you don’t want to be scared, don’t see “The Forgotten.” The language wasn’t too bad. However, it seemed as if the only time they cursed was when they cursed God. That happened 5-6 times. As a Christian, that bothered me. Without that and I would have said it’s a perfect movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Dan Arthur, age 34
Positive—An excellent psychological drama with a few terrifying moments. Only about half a dozen swear words; no sensuality. Wonderful production and direction in this mystery which kept my wife and I wondering right up to the end. Best thing we’ve seen in a long time, and we go to the movies every week.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Ron Reames, age 57
Neutral—A well done sci-fi thriller. Sony Pictures could have left out using the Lord’s name in vain and a few other words without any loss in impact to the storyline. An F for Sony based on their need to add cursing for cursing’s sake. I give the movie a B.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—David Church, age 38
Positive—This was the BEST movie I have EVER seen in my life. There wasn’t anything offensive, and I love it. I even let my 12 year old daughter see it with me, and I’m a Christian lady myself. I recommend this film to anyone 12 and up!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Rose, age 41
Neutral—Pretty good. I thought it was going to be a ghost movie, but instead I was surprised by a show about alien abduction, experimentation, and the NSA. Pretty kool. The only objectional thing I can remember is when the leading lady used the f-word at one point, but other than that it was okay
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Loren S., age 32
Neutral—I went to see this film based partly on the other reviews on this site. I desperately search out films that I don’t feel will be a waste of my time. I found this movie to at least marginally meet my expectations. Of course when the NSA got involved in the story I knew something was up besides just memory problems. Lately we’ve seen a rash of these “memory” movies come out of Holliweird (sic). One good thing I can say about this one was that no ultimate “organic” (originating from molecules and chemicals in the brain) basis for memory was found by the researcher.” If even inadvertently, the movie makers might be admitting that there is none. We know from the story of the rich man and Lazarus told by Jesus that memory has a spiritual element that modern (evolutionarily based) science will probably never find or admit to. If you can’t find anything better to do and have to see a movie I don’t think you’ll be any more disappointed than I was with this one.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Bob C, age 40
Positive—Overall, I was pleased that there didn’t seem to be much sexual nudity in this film, but there were a few curse words thrown in, including a reference to the Lord’s name in vain… I guess it wouldn’t be Hollywood if there weren’t! But I did think that the movie had a good story-line and was suspenseful enough to make me want to keep watching, including one or two parts that almost scared my husband and I out of our seats! I didn’t think there was anything TOO offensive in the film, although I’m not sure I liked the obvious unspoken assumption that “aliens” were behind the childrens’ abduction, because as a Christian I am not sure I believe in aliens (still, it was a fun addition to the plot). There is also a scene where the young mother spends the night in a hotel room with the young father while they search for their children. No nudity is shown, and they sleep in separate beds, so I was very pleased that the two did not feel obligated to sleep with one another. The film also had a happy ending… as a mother, I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have my child taken from me. A good outcome to the film!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Marie, age 23
Positive—This was a great movie, very intriguing. The concept of a child just suddenly “not existing” anymore might frighten or confuse young or immature children, but for older or more mature little ones it’s fine. There’s a certain amount of violence, but nothing gory or graphic. It makes a great date movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Kat, age 19

Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this movie with a bunch of friends and we all enjoyed it! It was very suspenseful and kept you at the edge of your seat. The language was minimal (but they could of made the movie just as well without it), and there was no sex or nudity and barely any violence. I thought it was pretty good! It was definitely worth the money. I’m not a big suspense/scary movie kind of person, but this was great, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 10 or 11. Good movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Laura Hellmers, age 14
Neutral—This was an okay movie, I rented this movie expecting it to be a little more thrilling; it was quite corny because they were “abducted “by aliens and yeah it was just cheezy… I thought it would be a lot scarier, quite a disappointment though it wase’t such a bad movie; I just expected it to be a lot better.
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Maria, age 13
Positive—Good movie! Well done, only some bad. In one scene she takes off her over-shirt and pants. Hidden plot and spooky. Good plot.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Andrew Benson, age 13
Positive—I found this film brilliant! It kept you on the edge of your seat. some scary moments that make your Heart stop but not that usual. Only one swear word which didn’t bother me. The story line was a bit hard to catch up with but overall it was great!
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—jack, age 12
Neutral—This movie is okay. There is some swearing and some violence. If your okay with that, you might like this movie. It is weird and yet enjoyable. If you like sci-fi thing, go see this movie. Though I don’t recommend this movie to young children.
My Ratings: [Average/14]
—Adam, age 3½
Positive—Great movie. keeps you guessing to the end. If you want to see a good movie with a little bit of everything, this is it. at one point you know what COULD happen, but you don’t know how or to who. really this movie is a fun ride. I suggest you go see it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Daniel Robison, age 16
Neutral—The Forgotten was okay. It was way to long though. They carried it on forever. The beginning was really weird with the coffee disappearing and stuff. I don’t know if I would see it again.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Kirsin, age 13
Positive—I thought this was an excellent movie, I agree that it was weird in the beginning, but they tied the loose strings together. It definitely kept me and my friend in suspense! They used the F-word once and gods name in vain about twice, which is better then most movies now-a-days; but I really enjoyed it more than any movie I’ve seen recently! Another reason I recommend this movie is the strong relationship between the mother and her child, how she never gave up on finding her son Sam, but I won’t give too much information about the movie away!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Cassie, age 15
Movie Critics
…a best-forgotten clone of an utterly illogical X-Files episode…
—Megan Lehmann, New York Post
…sustains a few icy chills, but a mix of genres muddles the story…
—Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
…a grade-A B-movie… a movie that earns our trust—and then happily abuses it…
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…not a good movie, but at least it supplies a credible victim…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…a pseudospiritual, mumbo-jumbo, science-fiction inflected mess…
—Manohla Dargis, New York Times
…far-fetched premises …often ludicrous but offers a few arcane, deadpan pleasures…
—Gene Seymour, Newsday