FOR STARS A couple are driving to a birthday party in a remote corner of Morocco. A random accident changes everything.
DRAMA UK #THEFORGIVEN
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain
Choices have consequences, a lesson David (Ralph Fiennes) learns too late. He and his wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) are on the way to a birthday party hosted by Richard (Matt Smith) and his boyfriend Dally (NITRAM’s Caleb Landry Jones). The couple live in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains if only because their substantial capital goes substantially further. They, like David and Jo plus most of the guests, have little sincere interest in Moroccan culture. They’re little more than economic colonialists, one of many themes pushed (hard) in this riveting drama by John Michael McDonagh (THE GUARD and CALVARY).
Foremost this is David’s story as he becomes entangled in the consequences of a random accident. Driving under the influence to the remote party, he first chooses to cover up the incident as well as the identity of a young man hit by his car. But truth will out, forcing him to confront the boy’s father and, in turn, make yet more poor choices. Obliged to travel across country at the father’s bidding, the strains of his marriage reach snapping point when Jo prefers the company of another guest and leaves David to atone for their sins alone.
Although events take place in a spiritual cesspool, McDonagh keeps us utterly engaged in the unfolding narrative. There’s a lot packed into his gripping screenplay adapted from Lawrence Osborne’s searing novel: cultural tourism, social inequity and racism among big, big themes.
As you’d expect from such a compelling cast, the performances are spot on: both captivating and sensationally repellent all at once. There’s a brittle archness that informs every character with each actor bringing an individual layer of overt unpleasant to their role. Consider how David seems to be finally learning a lesson yet Fiennes signals that for all his new found awareness, he’s still sipping from a shallow emotional pool.
And yet, for all the nastiness, THE FORGIVEN works because McDonagh is clear that we’re not expected to like these people but we are expected to understand how their inconsequential choices now have consequences amid their crumbling privilege. It’ll have you in its grip until the final, blistering scene.