STARRING: Julianne Moore, Anthony Edwards, Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard

2004, 96 Minutes, Directed by Joseph Ruben

Blame it on the SciFi Channel in the U.S. (or Space Channel in Canada) but we’re getting a steady diet of TV movies that are improving in quality. So when television movies are respectably entertaining – take Dune or the Battlestar Galactica mini-series for example – why go see a movie in the theatres? Why plunk down your $8 to $12 dollars for a ticket to catch a movie when you can wait for it on video? These questions came to mind after seeing The Forgotten which has a strong cast but a pedestrian script that’s like a Shyamalan reject made of many familiar pieces from other movies and TV shows.

Julianne Moore, who’s approaching media-saturation with her hair color commercials and perfume commercials and jewellery commercials, tosses her red hair and delicately creases her brow as Telly, a mother mourning the loss of her son, apparently in a tragic accident. In her New York home, she has a little shrine of pictures and toys. While her husband Jim (ER’s Anthony Edwards) tells her to let go, Telly begins to panic as pictures start to disappear. Her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) suggests the impossible – that Telly has actually never had a child and she’s been hallucinating the existence of her son ever since she had a miscarriage.

Directed by Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy) and written by Gerald Di Pego (Angel Eyes, Instinct, and the upcoming Halloween 9), the first half or so of The Forgotten is a well-done psychological thriller as the audience is unsure about Telly’s sanity. Whether or not her son was real doesn’t become the major concern as our empathy for a woman who is suffering a major loss – type to be determined. Reminiscent of another weak sci-fi movie, The Mothman Prophecies, this flick is beautifully and moodily shot and takes its star through an emotional ringer before we’re presented with the second half of the movie which becomes an X-Files meets Shyamalan project.

The Forgotten then abruptly shifts gears into an alien abduction movie. Telly convinces another parent (Dominic West) that he also had a child that he has completely forgotten. As they search for the truth to find out who can erase memories – both mental and physical – they uncover a nasty surprise at the end of the movie. Along the way, people and evidence disappear with great special effects flourishes (see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - another movie about memory manipulation).

An X-Files type of movie isn’t a bad thing but we get to watch those X-Files episodes for free on TV. Without being a spoiler, suffice it to say that “Shyamalan” is no longer a positive adjective in my book. I’d define “Shyamalan” now as cheap, formulaic twist. Odder still, Star Trek: The Next Generation fans may recognize large parts of the premise from an episode where Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden, another vivacious redhead) was trapped in a warp bubble. In that episode, as her friends’ and son’s existence is erased, one by one, she swears that she won’t forget them. It’s a similar memory game in The Forgotten – a movie that hopes you won’t mind being reminded of so many other B-movie sci-fi mindf*cks. Wait for this one on video.

- Harrison Cheung



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