'The Forgotten' spins an allegory of our collective memory's manipulation
The Forgotten is a celebration of maternal love, the story of one mother's bond to her son that is so powerful no one - neither husband nor psychotherapist nor police nor extraterrestrial - can sever it. At the outset of the film, Telly Paretta (Moore) is struggling to cope with matters as mundane as preparing dinner. She cannot expunge from her mind images of her beloved 9-year-old son, Sam, who died in a plane crash 14 months before. But the misfortune, insist her husband, Jim (Edwards), and her analyst, Dr. Munce (Sinise), is only in her mind. She never had a son, they say; the false memories that torment her were induced by the lingering trauma of a miscarriage.
Telly refuses to accept the claim that Sam is a delusion. She runs into a man, Ash Cornell (West), who she believes was the father of Sam's friend, Lauren. At first, Ash, a tippling former hockey star, thinks Telly is demented; as far as he is aware, he never had a daughter. But under Telly's persistent pressure, Ash realizes that she is right, that his daughter perished along with Sam, though evidence of their crash has vanished from the public record. Telly, a sophisticated book editor who never watches TV, and Ash, a former jock who subsists on a diet of junk snacks and whiskey, join forces against a world that has conspired to snatch their children from them again, by denying parental memories.
Soviet dissidents used to tell the truth at a slant, eluding prison by alluding, not stating. Read obliquely, The Forgotten is an unsettling allegory of how the Bush administration conspires with complaisant media to erase and rewrite collective memory. Most scenes are dimly lit, and as Telly and Ash flit in and out of urban shadows within walking distance of lower Manhattan, they are pursued by armed and implacable emissaries of the National Security Agency who deny jurisdiction to one of New York's finest, a stubborn detective named Ann Pope (Woodard). Hostile to New Yorkers and other unsubmissive citizens, the feds are secretly in cahoots with dangerous aliens. Long after The Forgotten might otherwise be forgotten, it will survive to remind viewers of the current reign of terror, in which history is rewritten to justify snooping and actions by the federal government serve to strengthen hostile hands. •