Movie Review: 'Forgotten' (2017)

The movie poster for the Korean thriller 'Forgotten' on Neflix
There is nothing forgettable about this innovative dramatic thriller that superbly weaves together several genre threads to create something entirely unique. “Forgotten” (originally titled: “Gi-eok-ui Bam”) opens as a family is moving into their new home. Joining their parents are twenty-something brothers Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul) and Yoo-seok (Kim Mu-yeol).

Where sibling rivalry could be tearing them apart, they remain incredibly close. In the opening narration, Jin-seok explains that he loves and admires his older brother, who excels at everything in life. Neither brother has been consumed by an overabundance of ego, their relationship uncontaminated by the potential of competitive ruin.

Things are going great for their family, as a whole. They have moved into a lovely new home, where there is no familial strife. Life is good. 

Then it all starts shifting. Notice the word “shift." This is a gradually revealed mystery that takes its time without ever losing its momentum, or declining into tedium.

As the family begins settling into their new abode, Jin-seok starts noticing blips in paradise, and while he questions them, a subtle hint given earlier allows both Jin-seok and the audience a chance to consider a quick explanation.

The interruptions start to escalate, and one night, Yoo-seok suggests the two go for a walk outside to clear their heads. This is where the hairpin turn begins. On their way back, Yoo-seok is kidnapped. Unable to help him, Jin-seok returns home and notifies his parents, who then alert the authorities. Nothing will ever be the same.

It Begins...

Truth and lies collide with a shocking mystery that causes Jin-seok to cross over a threshold he can never walk back over. “Forgotten” is as impeccable a mystery thriller, as it is a drama. There is so much to uncover, so many themes it treads on that further the depths and edges of the ensuing puzzle pieces laid before the audience.

Unlike many films in this vein, you will get answers. There is no ambiguity to be had here, and it is refreshing. While the movie entices audience participation, it is next to impossible to solve the case and that, in and of itself, is hard to come by in the thriller genre.

Written and directed with spectacular finesse by Zhang Hang-jun, “Forgotten” is a brilliant film to watch unfold, since its astute pacing never leaves the audience behind. The writing is tight, as it persuades viewers to consider scenario after scenario without ever tipping its hand too far. This is a complex tale that leverages first impressions to the hilt.

The cinematography similarly works to engage the viewer. The brilliant light captured in the beginning, giving way to dark shadows as its story continues.

The film hinges on the relationship between the brothers and the performances of its cast to deliver all that requires. Kang Ha-neul gives a brilliant and wide-ranging performance as Jin-seok, conveying everything a demanding role like this entails. In some scenes, he articulates happiness, fear, anger, and confusion, all within the span of a single moment.

Equally adept is Kim Mu-yeol, whose transformative turn is equally as compelling. It is hard to say more about it, without risking giving something away, so in the interest of maintaining the mystery, I will remain vague.

Here is what can be said. For both actors, “Forgotten” gives them an incredible stage to show their abilities, as neither character ends the film the way they begin it and that takes incredible skill to convey.

As “Forgotten” toys with viewers’ minds, you try to hold onto every clue. There is no straightforward mystery when the movie begins and as it evolves so does the question of what kind of movie is in our midst. Is it a kidnapping drama? Is there a supernatural thriller at play? “Forgotten” will keep you guessing until its big reveal, and that is one of the many factors that make it so unforgettable. 

Rating: 8.5/10

[Featured Image by BA Entertainment/Megabox Plus M/Netflix]