A tense drama with strong leads.
“The Forgiven,” starring Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain, has the atmosphere of a movie from the Golden Age. The credits take place in the opening shot, sometimes out of order, and sometimes backwards. It’s set in Morocco. I know movies today are still made there, but in a way, I was reminded of the movie “Casablanca,” because of the dialogue and dangers. And believe me: there are going to be movie formulas that are handled quite well by director John Michael McDonagh, who adapts Lawrence Osborne’s novel in an immoral sense.
I was thinking back to a conversation I’ve had with Richard Linklater, he was saying that all movies are like time capsules, regarding the old things we haven’t seen in a long time. Peter Bogdanovich also said: “There are no “old” movies-just ones you have already seen and ones you haven’t.” And I spoke with another young woman about how old we’ll be in about 30 years or so.
The point is that maybe one day in the future, movie fans, who look back at small films, will maybe see Fiennes and Chastain almost the way we saw Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca.” I know it sounds typical that I would recommend a more current film to future generations, but I mostly saw “The Forgiven” in an old-fashioned sense. It will never top that 1942 classic, but there’s still enough in it for us to absorb.
Fiennes and Chastain portray an unhappy couple, David and Jo Henninger, who are both invited for a party in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Their car ride becomes complicated with the drinking, the wind and the sand in the night, and the result: they accidentally hit a young fossil seller. He has no ID on him, and nobody else with him. At least that’s what’s interpreted at this point.
The people who find out about this include Richard Galloway (Matt Smith) and Dally Margolis (Caleb Landry Jones) the gay couple and party hosts, Tom Day the New York financial analyst Jo has a thing for (Christopher Abbot), Cody the party girl (Abbey Lee), Isabelle Péret the French Journalist (Marie-Josee Croze), Lord Swanthorne the haughty Brit (Alex Jennings), and Hamid the butler (Mourad Zaoui).
Word gets out through the dessert, and the deceased boy’s father Abdellah Taheri (Ismael Kanater) and his interpreter/driver Anouar (Said Taghmaoui) arrive to collect the body of his ONLY son, whose name is revealed to be Driss. Upon his arrival, he also requires that David comes with him to his hometown to bury the boy, since he was the driver responsible for his death. Both David and Jo think the father is from ISIS, but David has no recourse. It might be the best thing to do.
The movie also leaves us guessing about what will happen to the husband when he travels to Abdellah’s home, and what will happen if the wife begins her affair with the New Yorker. The affair isn’t as strong as the traveling, but there’s still a sense of eroticism there, and Chastain knows how to flash her red hair and talk sexy. And Fiennes puts all his skills to show us his character’s regrets and decisions. Even as they’re both getting older, they still look and feel good.
Lorne Balfe’s score tenses up as we see what really goes down in the story, and how the emotional weight punches us. Especially as we ease into Kanater’s character’s sorrows and state of mind. You’re just trying to figure out how the father will respond to meeting the man who accidentally killed his son. Whether or not you can guess the outcome, you’re still intrigued by it.
“The Forgiven” is riveting almost all the way through.
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