If anything is constant throughout our lives, it’s the changing nature of how we see ourselves. In order to progress or even survive, reinvention is needed but that does not mean progress, it is still only change. That same action can have unintended effects on the people closest to the person going through a change in self-identity. This is where Not Forgotten comes in.
First, a word about Dror Soref. Before this film, he has worked in music videos and later made the jump to feature films. As for this film, Not Forgotten has recieved some positive reviews from mainstream film publications. However, that is simply not the case here.
As for the plot, Simon Baker plays "Jack Bishop", who is married to Paz Vega and has a 12 year old daughter from a previous relationship. All seems fun and nice until Bishop’s daughter goes missing and the film goes on a wild journey from the Southwest to seedy Mexican alleys and bars. The film takes a look at a real-life Mexican cult that is based on vengeance and is vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church.
While this may be like other films dealing with the same subject matter, the truth is, it isn’t and that in itself is a godsend. In this case, both mom and dad have a secret and these make them both despicable at times and yet, completely understandable. One is after reaffirming his/her identity while the other is simply trying to hide it and these opposing intentions collide by the end of the film in a manner that is not that surprising and quite underwhelming.
However, the characters actions themselves should probably be elaborated. Revenge is also a big part of this film. In that case, as the proverb says, revenge is a dish best served cold, but since this takes place in and around Mexico, its the exact opposite of cold.
In "Aymara"’s (Vega) case, there is a quite personal reason for her anguish; one of the closest people in her life is the murderer of her father and the sheer weight of that is enough to cast aside all forms of decency for one thing only; family. How Mexican, how noble and how despicable if done in certain circumstances, but at least she sticks by her own perceptions of who she is instead of her husband. While one could deduce a certain revisionist angle at this film (sassy Latina takes on a gringo murderer; viva la Revolucion, never forget 1848!) in reality, it is simply a tale of a woman’s shelving of everything in the world for her own blood. Besides, who can you really depend on besides family?
In "Jack"’s case, his dark past as a Mexican cartel hitman brings up some interesting notes, namely the seediness of the border towns. In this case, his prior life was a true hell on earth which makes his belief in the supernatural quite understandable. Religion in its normal form provides a great deal of comfort while cults depend on the slavish devotion of its followers who have nothing to hold onto, except an exaggerated perception of their own redemption. This is Jack and Amayra to a tee; in retrospect, they were made for each other.
As for the directing, Soref is skilled at crafting a tight film where there are no lingering moments, no moments of redundancy and more importantly, can make a fast-paced film where the viewer is still on point by the end of the film. However, with that being said, the characters featured in the film are simply not that interesting. Both Simon Baker and Paz Vega’s characters come off as a bit bland and while the actors do a commendable job, the script is still a bit formulaic to the point that those who walk in late will still be able to suspect what is going on in the film. Besides, the whole Santa Muerte angle of the film comes off as cartoonish with terrible scenes involving the members of the faith. The scenes literally play out in a similar fashion to that of a Lifetime movie.
Despite the fact that the main selling point is the blending of magic and thriller, the results are average at best and at worse come off as direct to DVDfodder. To be fair, there are some redeeming elements of the film such as the merciful decision to make the film primarily about Paz Vega and Simon Baker instead of their daughter. No offense, Chloe Moretz, but you should not be allowed to do voice over in your next film.
So there you have it folks, a film that can thrill your pants half off (keep it on, please) and while the film is still quite enjoyable at times, the reasons listed above hold it back from being great. For a one-off viewing it is perfectly acceptable; repeated viewings simply lessen the impact and in this case, to paraphrase Nelson from The Simpsons, “I can spot two things wrong with that title.”