Drama | Vertical Entertainment & Roadshow Attractions | Rated R
Directed By: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Matt Smith, Ismael Kanater, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbey Lee, Saïd Taghmaoui, Christopher Abbott
Synopsis: A couple of wealthy Londoners try to cover up a tragic accident with a young man enroot to a lavish weekend party in the Moroccan desert. But when the father arrives seeking his son, the tension escalates as secrets are exposed and morals are tested.
I was compelled by the potential of The Forgiven. Yet I would class it as a mixed bag. There are redeeming qualities. The Moroccan backdrops are stunning and rich with depth to effectively entice the viewer with the lavish display of excess. There are times this film is a compelling look at the exploitation of the region from the Westerners who come for vacations with no respect for the land, its people, or their culture. Rather than diving into this topic though, they are essentially used to pass the time with idle (but admittedly well-written) conversations between the collection of finely dressed but highly unlikable characters. When a body arrives at the party’s doorstep it’s viewed as more of an inconvenience than a tragedy, another story layer ripe with dramatic possibilities that again isn’t fully explored.
At nearly two-hours the slow pace doesn’t evolve the characters much either as party goers come and go with little impression other than snobby elitists. Richard (Matt Smith) and Dally (Caley Landry Jones) not-so-subtly do show boredom with their current place in their wealthy lives. Throwing a party in an effort to feel some sort of excitement. David (Ralph Fiennes) and Jo (Jessica Chastain) are a typical unhappy rich couple with a decent age-gap. David’s a raging bigot and an insufferable alcoholic, and Jo is seemingly going through the motions. So, there is little for the viewer to invest in with them. Christopher Abbott’s Tom is a bit more of a mystery as he charms with way though the methodical progression but none of these individuals are likable. You wouldn’t want to spend more than a few minutes with any of them either, so a slow-moving plotline does have its hindrances.
John Michael McDonagh’s narrative is heavy on the flashy, silver-tongued dialogue and banter. But it’s also extremely light on the side of its morality, and in the substance of the topics it plays around with. Which does result in a bit of a “what are we doing here and where are we going?” vibe. There’s also a scene later in the middle act that clearly gives away the presumed final twist if you’re at all familiar with foreshadowing. From there it’s just a waiting game. Extended pans of characters reflecting, and longer scene intros do nicely capture the beauty of the region are admittedly visually appealing. They do give the movie an elegant atmosphere. But they fail to compensate for the lack of depth given to the more substance filled aspects of the plot.
Final Verdict: The Forgiven is a movie that does require some patience. It does have a natural element of intrigue to its pristine veneer. But with this cast, the characters should have been more impactful. Everyone in this movie has been better in other films. And had the story focused more on the meat of the story and not the glaze of the dialogue the result would be something more memorable, with performances that could potentially garner some awards chatter. Sadly, that won’t be the case with the two hours of world salad this movie delivers.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.