Wednesday, October 14, 2020

South Korean mystery FORGOTTEN proves a twisty, fascinating and moving "must-see"

Got to hand it to Netflix, which keeps coming up with terrific movies (along with plenty of duds), some of which you will have never heard. A good friend of mine recommended FORGOTTEN, a what-the fuck-is-going-on-here? thriller from 2017 that packs, at last, an almost unbearable sadness regarding family and loss, along with the socio-economic relevance of Parasite. It's from South Korea, of course, slipping into view almost completely under the critical radar.

Written and directed by Hang-jun Jang (aka Hang-jun Zhang), the movie is a veritable model of smart plotting and pacing, featuring a "mystery" that, as it unravels, keeps us absolutely hooked. Best of all, the explanation, rather than disappoint as so many mystery/thrillers do (the problem is always so much more interesting and fun than the solution), simply explodes here into something that hooks the heart as much as the mind, and results in as damning an indictment of dog-eat-dog Capitalism as you'll have seen.

It helps to know something of South Korean history and its financial crisis that left so much of the population in a horrible state. Forgotten never underscores anything too heavily and so glides easily along on its genre credentials alone. All the rest is gravy -- incredibly tasty and nourishing gravy, at that.

A young man (lovely actor Ha-Neul Kang, shown on poster, top, and above) and his family move into a house that, to him, looks oddly familiar. Strange things begin happening and we question for a bit if these are real, hallucinations or supernatural. Quickly, all this changes into something quite other, then changes again and again, as we race along with the thriller conventions to keep up as, all the while, Forgotten grows ever stranger and darker.

Performances are as expert as usual in South Korean cinema, while the technical aspects of the film are also first-rate. Dark as it is -- literally and metaphorically -- Forgotten is always a pleasure to view. And the final scene, which arrives just after the end credit title is shown, is maybe as glowingly beautiful as anything I've seen in a long while. This finale posits the question, What is it that defines our character? The film does not provide the answer, but the manner in which it does the asking is exemplary. 
This one's a keeper.

Streaming now via Netflix, the film runs 108 minutes, relatively short by South Korean standards, every one of which pleases (those minutes and those standards).

No comments: