Forgetting Dad Rich Minnich and Matt Sweetwood

Forgetting Dad Rich Minnich and Matt Sweetwood

By the very nature of the relationship, children tend to hold their fathers high up on pedestals as untouchable figures of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Forgetting Dad is the journey of one son to understand his father, one that slowly chips away at this armour of invulnerably. It makes for an often-fascinating psychological examination of family and the contradictions of relationships we assume are impenetrably bonded by blood.

Rich Minnich, a documentarian and the film's narrator, is the son of Richard Minnich, a seemingly normal middleclass American dad; he's a married man with two kids who divorces and starts another family. Not traditional family values but nothing out of the ordinary in today's society. Richard was still responsible to the children from his previous marriage and even tried to create a Brady Bunch version of it. Several years into his new marriage, Richard got into a tragic car accident and 12 days after that suddenly loses his memory, becoming a complete amnesiac.

In an instant, Richard is a different person. Rich, his son, is a stranger to him, so are his wife and all his other children. Gone is every memory before the accident. As time goes by, Richard, forced to live with these "strangers" who try desperately to bring back his memory, gradually drifts away, completely disconnecting with his former life. As Rich travels the country interviewing his relatives from both families, sordid details emerge of a nefarious past, unlawful business practices and a motive for his father to fake his undiagnosed condition.

Minnich's filmed journey has much in common with last year's Hot Docs fave, Dear Zachary, being part personal exploration, part investigative pot-boiler. The timeline of events could have been told to us in less than five minutes of screen time but Minnich smartly holds back key information, forming a twisting and turning, often beguiling, narrative. The consistent tone of sombre reflective melancholy and careful pacing unfortunately suggests a bombshell waiting to drop on us and indeed, we get a couple of twists but none as dramatic as expected.

By the end of the film, the idolized persona of Minnich's father has been dragged through the mud, tarnished beyond recovery. Yet Rich still needs closure and an admission of responsibility from a father to his son. This moment unfortunately doesn't get filmed but the description of the final meeting with his father is a profound reveal of the human flaws that even fathers can't escape. (Films Transit International)