A Sci-Fi Honey Mother’s Day Review by Katie

The Forgotten (2004)

Mother’s Day weekend is upon us, and for those of you who are celebrating with your mothers, take some time to be thankful for the little things: that you have a mother in your life worth celebrating, and that you’re not the unwitting test subject in a sinister extraterrestrial experiment. Such is the case for one grieving mother at the heart of 2004’s The Forgotten, who soon finds that losing a child is not the worst thing that can happen to a parent. Filtering everyday horrors through a sci-fi lens, director Joseph Ruben crafts an oddly engaging pseudo-psychodrama about the inability to cope with loss and sets it somewhere that would be familiar territory on The Twilight Zone.

Julianne Moore stars as Telly, a grief-stricken woman mourning the death of her nine-year-old son in a tragic plane crash. It’s been over a year since Sam’s passing, but Telly eases her sorrow by revisiting fond memories of her son – leafing through favorite photographs, watching home movies, holding his baseball glove – all while reconciling the loss through counseling sessions with a therapist. Already in a fragile state, Telly’s world view suddenly collapses: Sam’s image disappears from her photos, the home movies are blank, and his glove is gone. Her husband and therapist gingerly inform her that she never had a son, and that all her memories of Sam are an elaborate delusion stemming from a miscarriage. Not ready to accept this, she seeks out the assistance of a grieving father (Dominic West) whose daughter died in the same crash, to both validate her sanity and prove the existence of their departed children.

Julianne Moore: savior of bad movies.

No stranger to being behind the camera for family-oriented horror (The Stepfather, The Good Son), Ruben frames these early scenes with a heavy dose of psychological unease. During one therapy session, Telly takes a sip of coffee; a moment later when she reaches for it and the cup is gone, the therapist informs her that she never had any coffee. This moment is so subtly edited that you’re tempted to rewind the scene just to confirm whether she’s actually crazy or he’s gaslighting her into believing that she is. Either way, this makes for an anxiety-ridden experience for the viewer, unsure of whose perspective to trust. Telly is a modern-day Rosemary Woodhouse: teetering on the edge of her own mental instability, she’s fleeing persecution from “all of them witches” – or in this case, quite possibly, “all of them aliens.”

Like this one.
It’s about two-thirds of the way into The Forgotten when the entire tone of the film veers out of the realm of semi-plausibility and straight into Mulder and Scully land. The special effect that skyrockets us there – quite literally – is so unexpectedly jarring, that the film is never the same from that moment on. What’s left quickly unravels into a frenzied mess, so overwrought with chase scenes and alien conspiracy mumbo-jumbo that one wonders if they’re even watching the same movie. While horror fans will appreciate what it all devolves into – including  jump scares that are actually rather startling and creepy, especially for a PG-13 offering – the truth is that the third act of the movie just doesn’t complement the first two acts, leaving the whole film to feel as imbalanced as Telly’s erratic state of mind.

Because no one can ugly cry like Julianne can.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good sci-fi thriller, especially one rife with extraterrestrial intrigue (they’re always watching, after all…). What The Forgotten fails to do, however, is choose a course of action and stick to it. It’s an expertly crafted psychological study in the beginning, and a rather scary alien horror/actioner in the end – but as both combined in a single film, it just doesn’t work. If an actress less capable than the always-amazing Julianne Moore were in the lead, I’d be tempted to write the whole thing off. But Moore’s embodiment of Telly’s struggle to hold onto the memory of her son, even in (literally) astronomical circumstances, is a testament to her ability to anchor a film that doesn’t quite know what kind of film it wants to be.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three out of five alien ass-kicking mothers.

The Forgotten is available via Netflix Streaming, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video
YouTube VOD, Google Play, & DVD

Do you celebrate Mother's Day with a Sci-Fi movie?
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