Like an "X-Files" episode with a civilian redhead (instead of an FBI agent) up to her neck in the eerie goings-on, "The Forgotten" stars the emotionally riveting Julianne Moore as a mourning mother being driven mad by memories of a 9-year-old son that the rest of the world tells her never existed.
But did he? From Moore's perspective, she's been in therapy since the plane crash that killed her boy. But 14 months later, all the kid's pictures and toys disappear from her house almost overnight (as do news clippings about the crash). Then her perplexed husband (Anthony Edwards) denies they ever had a son (and before long doesn't remember her either), and her shrink (Gary Sinise) tells her she's begun emerging from a long delusion.
Soon on the run from what she's told is reality, her only ally is a newly alcoholic ex-hockey player (Dominic West, "Chicago") who takes some convincing to conjure up fractured memories of his own daughter killed in the same accident.
The movie's big question is whether or not Moore is just nuts -- especially as she becomes increasingly convinced her son is actually alive. Director Joseph Ruben plays it close to the vest, slowly revealing governmental conspiracies and supernatural elements (with some simple but startling special effects) that could go either way, and factoring in frequent aerial shots that imply Moore and West are under some kind of sci-fi surveillance.
The suspense and disorientation are well-drawn, and the performances are substantial as Moore is compelled forward on little more than her own determination to piece together wisps of clues into a much larger paranormal picture. Alfre Woodard is especially good, providing the appearance of sagacity to a thankless role as a cop who, for no apparent reason, begins to believe Moore's story.
But Ruben ("Sleeping With the Enemy," "Return to Paradise") and writer Gerald Di Pego ("Phenomenon," "Instinct") count too much on the actors drawing attention away from the fact that "The Forgotten" raises more (and rather obvious) questions than it answers about the impetus and intelligence behind the eventual truth -- and especially about the coherence of its conclusion.
The film has a respectable goosepimple factor, but on the whole it's even more forgettable than Moore's kid seems to be for everyone in the world but herself.
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th September 2004
Box Office USA: $66.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $117.6M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios, Jinks/Cohen Company
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Fresh: 53 Rotten: 118
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Joseph Ruben
Starring: Julianne Moore as Telly Paretta, Anthony Edwards as Jim Paretta, Jessica Hecht as Eliot, Christopher Kovaleski as Sam, Dominic West as Ash Correll, Tim Kang as Agent Alec Wong, Gary Sinise as Dr. Munce, Lee Tergesen as Al Petalis