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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forgotten is a South Korean psychological thriller/sci-fi/ horror/murder mystery. That may sound confusing, but it covers all the genres that play a part in this frequently scary and violent film. Shifting points of view and changing information alter the audiences' understanding of who is a good guy and who is bad, and kidnapping, murder, suicide, and torture are all seen and described. Adults smoke cigarettes and curse regularly, using language including "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "pr--k," and "bitch." The film is in Korean with well-written English subtitles.
What's the story?
Nothing is as it first seems in FORGOTTEN, called Night of Memory in Korean. Is the happy family a happy family? Is the good guy really good? Is the bad guy really bad? A South Korean family moves to a new home. The previous owner has requested no one enter a particular room until further instructions. The horror genre is evoked when disconcerting noises emanate from the room. Are they caused by something supernatural? Why is younger brother Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul) the only one who seems curious or worried about the mysterious goings-on? His admired older brother Yoo-seok (Kim Mu-yeol) is kidnapped before his eyes, but the police don't seem that interested and no ransom is sought. When Yoo-seok returns weeks later, he has no memory of the abduction, but he seems different, sinister. Younger brother Jin-seok takes anxiety medication and has terrible nightmares in which his beloved and revered older brother is a criminal who is torturing him, even trying to kill him. The story that unfolds involves a cold-case unsolved murder, traumatic amnesia, insurance fraud, fatal car accidents, psychological role-playing, hypnosis, and kidnapping. Two seemingly good men are swept up in events beyond their control and seemingly turn bad, but even that's not certain.
Is it any good?
This thriller gets off to a galloping start and could easily become a cult classic. Director Jang Hang-jun switches genres and moods effortlessly, twisting the plot back and forth in time, moving from believability to disbelief-suspending with a steady hand. Even when Forgotten feels as if the latest turn seems incredible and the story may be losing its through-line, Jang Hang-jun snaps the narrative back onto his carefully drawn map dictating the bizarre journey this movie is built to take us on. For example, given the sloppiness of a barely planned murder, it seems inconceivable that the crime goes unsolved for decades. So, yes, there are shaky plot points, but the heart and empathy this movie is ultimately based on emerges at the end even if "happily ever after" cannot be achieved. Kids and younger teens will almost certainly be frightened by chases, torture, and bloody murder scenes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Forgotten manipulates the audience's perceptions about its characters. What are some of the ways that movies identify bad guys as distinct from good guys? How does this movie use those standards to confuse viewers?
What do you think the filmmaker is trying to say about preconceived notions and prejudices? Does he suggest that even the worst of us may have good reasons for being the way we are? Does that excuse bad behavior and crime?
How do you feel about the elements that first lead us to believe this may be a horror film, then suggest it's a murder mystery, and then a thriller? Can you identify how the filmmaker achieves those effects?
What does the movie say about the role unforeseen circumstances can play in our lives?