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For the past year or so, Telly Paretta has mourned the death of her 9-year-old son, Sam. She spends hours either in therapy or reliving cherished memories by rummaging through the boy’s dresser and paging through scrapbooks. She even revisits newspaper clippings about the disappearance of the plane that was carrying Sam and five other children. But one day everything changes. Sam no longer appears in family photos. His belongings are gone, as are all evidences of his existence. Telly’s husband questions her sanity, suddenly denying that they ever had a child. Is she crazy? Did a personal trauma lead her to create Sam as nothing more than a figment of her imagination?
[Spoiler Warning] As one might surmise from viewing theatrical previews for this film, Telly isn’t crazy. There’s something bizarre going on and she intends to find out what it is. Her first encounter is with Ash, a retired hockey player whose daughter was on the plane with Sam. Initially he denies ever having a daughter, but as memories come back to him, he becomes Telly’s most reliable ally in the quest to solve this mystery. The pair’s pursuers include federal agents and an enigmatic figure who is the key to understanding their mind-bending circumstances.
Telly is a caring mother who refuses to let memories of her son fade. Her husband tries his best to respect her fragile emotional state and be supportive. When she thinks her son may still be alive, she perseveres against great odds to try and find him.
A man prone to drunkenness reaches a turning point and rejects alcohol as unproductive. A twist late in the movie affirms the humanity of preborn children. Ash is willing to sacrifice himself to create a diversion and allow Telly to escape. Flashbacks show tender moments between Telly and Sam, and Ash and his daughter, Lauren.
If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that parents shouldn’t take their children for granted, and they should treat parenthood as a blessing. A malevolent character tells Telly, “There are worse things than forgetting [your child],” to which she replies defiantly, “No, there aren’t.”
Asked what’s happening, a police officer tells his superior, “God only knows, but I don’t think He’s in the loop.” Indeed, the strange, supernatural events of the film—including a severe threat to the human race itself—occur unchecked by any higher power. An enraged man’s face transforms, revealing demonic-looking features.
Telly’s psychiatrist asks her about the quality of sex in her marriage, which she decides is none of his business. Upon meeting Telly, a drunken Ash invites her home with him (she says no). On the lam, Ash and Telly share hotel rooms but avoid any sexual activity. We do see Telly in skimpy underwear.
Ash scuffles with federal agents (punches thrown; agent hits him with a stick). He also kicks in a car window and later smashes a pane of glass to escape pursuit. A strange force rips the roof off a cabin and sucks a man into the air. Several other people are ominously vacuumed into the sky. A police officer fires several bullets into a guy (who isn’t hurt and whose wounds heal instantly). There’s a jarring car crash when agents ram Telly and Ash. A character who refuses to step aside gets hit by a speeding car, then walks away without a scratch. A battle between two men ends with both of them sailing through a window and plummeting toward the pavement (one is sucked away, the other is unscathed after the fall). Telly smashes a picture frame in anger. An agent gets knocked cold with a poker, then slapped around and threatened by Ash.
Crude or Profane Language
There are approximately two dozen profanities or obscenities. Telly blurts the f-word once and another character is seen mouthing it. There is also an s-word. Numerous abuses of God’s name include five counts of “g--d--n" and two exclamations of Jesus’ name.
Drug and Alcohol Content
To cope with the loss of his daughter, Ash has turned to the bottle. The first time we meet him he’s drunk, swigging liquor. Throughout the film he consumes alcohol and passes out a couple of times. He admits he’s often blitzed by noon. Twice Telly urges him to stop drinking. The second time she forcefully tells him that getting plastered isn’t going to improve his situation (“You’re in this. You don’t get to drink your way out”). Only after she adds, “I need you to stay clear” does he pour the rest of his booze down the drain and face their challenges head on.
Other Negative Elements
Telly’s desperate search for answers leads her to lie to a woman for information.
Co-producer Bruce Cohen says, “Dan [Jinks] and I had been wanting to do a thriller for a while, but we were hoping someday to find an unconventional thriller, something we hadn’t seen before, and with a couple of really intriguing elements. That’s a perfect description of The Forgotten. I kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. It was riveting—and creepy.”
Riveting concept. Creepy atmosphere. I’ll give him that. Other adjectives worth tossing into the mix are “mediocre,” "illogical” and “occasionally silly,” though maybe we should expect as much from a sci-fi/conspiracy thriller that plays out like an extended episode of The X-Files. It also uses too much profanity, which is its most egregious sin.
That said, the last five minutes made me want to pump my fist in the air in excitement. Not only does this movie exalt a mother who clings ferociously to the memory of her lost son, but it ends with an amazing pro-life twist. Whether or not the filmmakers intended to make a moral statement, the fact remains that evil is defeated and countless lives are saved by the fact that Telly believes that her son’s life began at conception. Great ending. The rest is best forgotten.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Julianne Moore as Telly Paretta; Gary Sinise as Dr. Munce; Dominic West as Ash Correll; Alfre Woodard as Ann Pope; Anthony Edwards as Jim Paretta; Linus Roache as Friendly Man
Joseph Ruben ( Money Train)