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'Forgotten,' Less Than Memorable

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2004; Page C05

As a psychological thriller and classic piece of New York gothic in the tradition of "Rosemary's Baby," "The Forgotten" gets off to a promising start. Julianne Moore stars as Telly Paretta, a freelance editor who lives with her husband (Anthony Edwards) in a dark, brooding Brooklyn townhouse. In mourning for her 8-year-old son, who died in a plane crash 14 months earlier, Telly is drifting around in a state of suspended animation, invoking her son's memory like a totem every day and visiting a psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) to work through her grief. But soon what looks like normal mourning takes on the characteristics of a deeper emotional disturbance as images of Telly's son, Sam, begin to disappear, first from a photo album and then on a home video. Did Sam ever really exist? Or is Telly the victim of a particularly cruel gaslight scheme?

By the time she and a neighbor (Dominic West) are being pursued by federal agents, a mysterious stranger and a well-intentioned police detective (Alfre Woodard), the answer becomes clear. But the more details of Sam's disappearance are revealed, the more improbable and finally preposterous they become.

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"The Forgotten," which has been directed by Joseph Ruben from a script by Gerald Di Pego, features a stylish look and solid performances from Sinise, West and Moore (who seems to have mastered the art of playing women on the constant verge of tears). But what began as a relatively sophisticated psychological thriller firmly grounded in reality becomes a science fiction creature feature. This radical shift in tone results in an uneasy mix between "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the "The X-Files," and one not nearly as smart as either.

The Forgotten (96 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence and brief profanity.

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