Although 14 months have passed, Telly (Julianne Moore) still deeply mourns the loss of her nine-year old son Sam who was killed in a plane crash with several other children. Every day she spends time in Sam’s room, looking through a photo album, watching home movies on the VCR or just holding onto his baseball glove. One day she discovers that the photo album is empty and the videotapes blank. When she confronts her husband (Anthony Edwards) and therapist (Gary Sinise), they tell her that she never had a son; she has hallucinated the past decade of her life following the trauma of a miscarriage.
Not wanting to believe what she’s been told, Telly turns to Ash (Dominick West), the father of one of Sam’s friends who also perished in the plane crash. At first Ash can’t remember his daughter, until Telly manages to discover evidence in his apartment of her existence. Together, the pair try to discover who the mysterious forces are that are altering people’s memories and why.
The Forgotten starts off with an intriguing premise and builds steadily on it through the first half. While there really is no doubt as to Telly’s sanity in the mind of the viewer, the film adroitly sets up the elements that are arrayed against Telly. There are subtle hints that Telly’s memory may be playing tricks on her during her first visit with her psychiatrist, setting us up to seethe she is being manipulated. Moore does some outstanding work here, never going overboard as the grieving and determined mother.
But the overall effectiveness of any thriller depends on how well it pays off what it has set up. Unfortunately this is where The Forgotten stumbles and falls face down into the dirt. Telly and Ash make a few leaps of logic in their investigations that lead them to their final confrontation with the forces behind what has been going on. However, these are deductions that they could not have made based strictly on the information we see them receive. Moore’s character at one point refers to these forces as “The Ancients,” a term no one has mentioned anywhere else in the film before that moment. Also, despite a few overt displays of power and the tampering with a majority of the character’s minds, the forces behind these events are left too mysterious, consequently they never generate much menace. Their earthly agents seem to be deathly afraid of them, though we are never shown why. This lack of threat undermines the film’s finale as we never get an idea of what Tilly is facing when she reaches the film’s climactic moments. The film’s coda is equally frustrating, as it shows some resolution for Tilly and Ash, however, the fates of several other characters are left unaddressed. These problems, taken in total, leave me to wonder if one is better off waiting for the inevitable DVD release in hopes for an extended edit of the film or a deleted scene section to help smooth over the finale’s rough spots.