It's 11pm. Do you know where your children are?
I sure as hell don't and neither does Julianne Moore in Joseph Ruben's haunt-a-thon thriller The Forgotten. Moore plays Telly Paretta, a grieving mother whose young son died in a plane crash the year before. Or did he (cue Twilight Zone Music)? Paretta has greater cause for concern when her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards), psychiatrist Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise) and neighbors tell her she's never even had a kid and the crash never happened. Even Ash Correll (The Wire's Dominic West) an ex-professional hockey player who supposedly lost his own daughter in the same crash denies their existence. It seems that Telly has been suffering from a year long case of Barren Von Womb's disease (my own diagnosis), creating these fantastical notions to fulfill the ghosts of pregnancy troubles past.
Given the suspenseful ghostly-kid centered plot, the marketing wizards behind the film unsuccessfully want you to think Sixth Sense; but the film is not without its charms. Moore, for example, an excellent actress who can usually be found in juicy roles during Oscar-bait season, believably portrays a pained mother who will stop at nothing to find out what did or didn't happen to her son. To Ruben's (The Good Son, Money Train, Sleeping With The Enemy) credit, he creates a well-paced suspenseful mood in the first hour of the film, quietly grasping us and bringing us along for the ride with Telly and Ash (whom she soon convinces of his daughter's existence) as they out-run government baddies and get to the bottom of why the world denies their children's existence. There are also two feverish instances where the tiny hairs on my neck (I call them "Hairettes") stood at attention: the disquieting character-turning sequence where Ash realizes that he indeed had a daughter and the truly jolting manor by which mettlesome types who try to help our heroes are expunged from this planet.
But the film troubled me as well. First, is the continuing of a recent, noticeable trend of cinematographer's draining color for the look of the film (save for the color-infused flashbacks), leaving us with a mix of cold steel blues, grays, blacks and whites. There are also moments that are obnoxiously dark. I understand you are trying to set a mood, but the DP's of the Golden Age of Hollywood must be spinning in their graves. Secondly, those marketing wizards' "twist" ending is really just an ending, sans twis. The big secret is hinted at throughout the film and if you are still guessing by the end, well, lock up your sharp objects. But most offending, in my opinion, is the film's ultimate message about the lack of strength in the parent-child bond. Without spoiling the fruit for you, take the true glorious heart of a film like A.I. where a child searches the entire film for his mother and turn it on its literal and figurative head.
Despite an excellent first hour of suspense-building, the succeeding screen time unfulfills that initial promise and the film's ending leaves you downright disappointed. Throw in a good performance by Julianne Moore and you have a two out of four star film; good enough for rental on weeknight and a few appearances by your own "hairettes." Just make sure you know where your kids are before you watch it, ok?