'The Forgiven' Is an Unforgivable Waste of Time

Directed by John Michael McDonagh

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Matt Smith, Saïd Taghmaoui, Christopher Abbott, Ismael Kanater, Caleb Landry Jones, Mourad Zaoui, Abbey Lee, Alex Jennings, Marie-Josée Croze

BY Rachel HoPublished Sep 16, 2021

John Michael McDonagh's The Forgiven follows David (Ralph Fiennes) and Jo (Jessica Chastain), a stereotypical rich couple consisting of an alcoholic older husband and a stunning younger wife. On their way to a party in the middle of the Moroccan desert, David and Jo accidentally run over a young boy, killing him. They eventually reach the party, body in tow, and, after some finagling with the authorities, it is deemed an accident with David suffering no legal consequences. When the deceased boy's father (Ismael Kanater) arrives at the estate to collect his son's body, however, he demands David accompany him to their family home in an act of repentance.

Each member of the ensemble turns in a solid performance; Matt Smith and Saïd Taghmaoui shine in particular. And because The Forgiven was shot on location, audiences are treated to the beautiful architecture and landscape of Morocco. Technically speaking, the film is well-done. But for as technically proficient as it is, The Forgiven lacks both suspense and something to say.

The film is split between David's journey of honour and enlightenment and Jo giving into desire and pleasure. The thriller aspect of the film is very muted, resulting in the climax of the film feeling unearned. And while gathering a bunch of attractive, rich, white people in the Moroccan desert for a weekend of partying where the waitstaff are conservative Muslims sounds rich with social commentary, the issues raised in The Forgiven are never explored enough to go beyond an offering of superficial discourse.

What's the point of The Forgiven? The film doesn't offer any answers, but those intrigued by the concept may be better off reading Lawrence Osbourne's novel.
(House of Un-American Activities)

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