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Sifting through 'The Forgotten'

Last night, I stumbled upon The Forgotten on FX—and I was hooked. I ate half a pot of jalapeno popcorn in just the first half-hour. But, as the film went on in its truly pulse-raising and -pounding twists, I kept thinking to myself, This film can’t deliver. It’s ending won’t live up to the rest of it. Unfortunately, I think my instincts were right. The second half of the film floundered somewhat, and I found the ending not only inconsistent but also disturbing in its philosophical implications. But the film did have more than one thing to say that brings God-talk into open spaces—and that gets it onto this blog.

The film follows Telly, who is grieving the death of her nine-year-old son Sam, who died in a plane crash with five other children some months earlier. Early on in the film, however, suddenly everyone else’s memories of Sam (along with all evidence he ever existed) disappear. Telly teeters between wondering if she’s insane (as her psychiatrist and estranged husband tell her) or if something more sinister is going on—the latter of which she confirms after she helps another parent of one of the children remember the daughter he has forgotten. Without giving away too much of the details and plot twists (the above happens within the first 45 minutes of the film and is pretty much given away by the trailers), the two parents spend the rest of the film trying to find their kids.

This whole premise of struggling to believe something your experience and gut tells you to be true even though it seems everything and everyone around you screams you’re wrong is a real-life experience when it comes to faith. Sometimes, I feel a lot like Telly, only it’s God of whom all evidence seems to have vanished. Sometimes it seems as if all traces of him have been erased from life, and the culture whispers in my ear that perhaps I’ve just made it all up.

But, like Telly, I have memories. I have something deep inside me that pushes me onward. I, like Telly, start to remember the feeling of Life growing inside me. I remember those revelations and experiences that confirmed who God is and what he can do. I remember the truth of God and the larger Story of which I’m a part. And, like Telly, I am grateful when I cross paths when someone else who remembers what’s real as well.

This aspect of the film is the one that resonates the most with me; it’s an echo of the greater Truth. Which is probably why the ending—and its implications—left me disappointed. With a story and characters that ooze hope and perseverance, I found the ending—which on first glance seems in line with those qualities—inconsistent; instead, on closer examination, the last scenes of the film leave us with a fatalistic and rather pessimistic worldview.

(Caution: The ending is discussed below. Don’t read it unless you already know how things turn out—or you just don’t care, heh.)

Even though mother and son are reunited, the final scenes imply that the larger forces at work in the world are too great to fight and from which no Savior exists to rescue us—and that the greatest meaning or good in life is found in fighting for and retaining whatever goodness or relationship or love or life we can get here and now. The forces that took Telly’s son are still at large and there’s not a shred of hope in defeating or fighting against them. One can only live under them and hope that they leave you alone (a perspective not unlike how many view God or fate). Sam is returned and things go on as if nothing had ever happened. While she remembers everything, Telly seems to gratefully settle back into this illusionary pretense of reality—somewhat like Cypher in the Matrix, who decides eating a steak in a world of illusion is much better than fighting a battle against an overwhelming foe in the real one. With a tearful and grateful smile on her face, Telly succumbs to that world. Unfortunately, that is also a world in which many people live today.

And that, in my opinion, goes against the larger truth with which the film hints at and echoes so strongly. With a film where a strong character strives not to forget what is real, this ending left me disappointed. Great potential but it didn't follow through.

To be fair, however, I should add that my husband disagrees with me. He finds the ending much more optomistic than I do.

Heh, you decide.

(Images: Columbia Pictures)