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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Forgiven

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD



The Forgiven

Consequences of a random accident and culture clash are the central focus in director/writer John Michael McDonagh's intriguing adaption of Lawrence Osborne's 2012 novel of the same name.

Two of moviedom's top acting powerhouses, Oscar winner Jessica Chastain (last year's Best Actress for Eyes of Tammy Faye) and Ralph Fiennes play wealthy, married couple, Jo and David Henninger. She's an American writer of children's books, who hasn't written in years, and he's a cynical, bigoted, non-compassionate, British doctor, who his wife describes as a “highly functioning alcoholic”.

Set in the Moroccan desert, the story kicks off one evening as the couple are driving through the pitch black night to attend their old friend, Richard (Matt Smith) and his boyfriend Dally's (Caleb Landry-Jones) weekend party at a remote, luxurious villa. David is inebriated, speeding and in the midst of an argument over being lost, when suddenly tragedy strikes as a local Muslim teenage boy named Driss (Omar Ghazaoui) steps out in front of the car and is accidentally killed. After loading the body in the car, they proceed on their way, arriving late to the party. David shows no remorse for hitting and killing the young man, and dismisses it as “an inconvenience” while his hosts are only concerned how the body will disrupt the party.

Although David doesn't want the police to show up and “poke into things”, they are called in and rule it as an accident. What follows is an attempt to sweep the incident under the rug and enjoy the party like it never happened, that is, until Abdellah (Ismael Kanater), the deceased boy's grieving father comes knocking at the door to collect his son and demands that, as a noble gesture to pay respect and honor his son, David accompany him to their village to bury the boy. To smooth things over, David agrees to go with no idea what lies ahead for him. Could this stranger in a strange land have an epiphany that could change him forever, or will it be too late to alter the course of what's to come?

The story shifts back and forth from what David is forced to experience, to the house party where Jo, a bored housewife feeling free and uninhibited while her husband is away, gets caught up in the debauchery, booze, cocaine, and a flirtation with another guest, New York playboy and financial analyst, Tom (Christopher Abbott) that leads to adultery. Meanwhile, watching all this on the sidelines with quiet dignity is Hamid (Mourad Zaoui) head of the staff of servants.

A strong contrast between cultures and the rich haves and the poor have nots is made evident. The white, “civilized” Westerners are depicted as privileged, entitled, and immoral while being sympathetic to the poor Muslim villagers that are forced to sell fossils to make enough money to sustain themselves. One rare fossil, in particular that looks like a demon, is filled with symbolism.

As always, Chastain and Fiennes are superb and believable as is the entire supporting cast including Said Taghmaoui as David's driver/translator with whom he has an emotional interaction towards the end of the film.

Although somewhat controversial in its less than favorable portrayal of Westerners, The Forgiven is nevertheless, a well crafted film that will draw you in by its provocative, tension filled narrative and is definitely worth watching.


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