Road to nowhere

The Forgiven (18, 117 minutes)

Filthy rich is a term used by people who aren’t as a blanket description of public school types with more dosh than they know what to do with (usually old money) so they frivolously splash the cash at every opportunity.

But the term is far more suited to the vacuous, minted hedonists in this – let’s call it a drama, but it feels more like an indulgence – about a group of present day lotus eaters, with a mentality more associated with the responsibility-phobic, contemptuous ruling class of the 1920s, enjoying a weekend of excess at a palatial estate in the Atlas Mountains owned by concave-faced antiques dealer Richard (Matt Smith), or more likely his daddy.

The main protagonists of this immorality tale are alcoholic surgeon David Henninger (Ralph Feinnes) and his children’s author wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) who neither has kids of her own nor even likes them particularly.

And from the constant bickering they don’t appear to even like each other much.

While driving the mountain pass in search of the turning to their venue, their car collides with a young boy who suddenly appears in the headlights, his aim being to rob the couple at gunpoint with help from his young hidden accomplice. This remains unknown to them as the sozzled doc not only hits the teenager but drives right over him.

What becomes apparent from the get go is that the young man’s life is immediately worth less than the inconvenience his death presents to his self obsessed killers.

After finally arriving at their destination, with the body in the boot of their car, and the death being reported to the authorities, who manage to identify the lad, his father, a Berber from the south of Morocco, shows up with two associates to claim the body of his only child and insists that David accompany them back to witness the burial.

David is persuaded that the risk of going (with 1,000 Euros in his pocket as a pay off) is preferable to an investigation by the Moroccan authorities.

At no point throughout this process is any remorse or genuine sympathy shown or felt by any of the white characters, which, if the film wasn’t so utterly dull, would have most people hoping that while his vapid wife gets pally with a young American, the drunkard doctor is disposed of in the desert, never to be seen again. End of… roll credits, just to make it all be over.

But no, because even a screenplay which appears to have been written purely as an exercise for Feinnes and Chastain to flex their acting muscles needs some sort of arc, no matter how ambivalent we may be to it by the time it arrives.

The Forgiven is self indulgent drivel in which no character is remotely likeable or worth investing in.

That this is a deliberate ploy designed to make us feel that even the worst of people can be redeemed simply by owning their flaws makes it all the more regrettable that this is the best part of two hours you’re never getting back.

RATING: 4/10

Mick Ferris

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