Friday, July 1, 2022

A desert foray among the irresponsible rich

In The Forgiven, Ralph Fiennes 
displays his mastery as a contemptuous alcoholic physician whose bill for negligence may finally come due. Director John Michael McDonagh teams Fiennes with Jessica Chastain, who plays the other half of a battling couple who’ve been invited for a party weekend at an isolated villa in Morocco. Fiennes laces his performance with rueful cynicism in a movie that, among other things, takes aim at the cultural bigotry of the irresponsible rich. The key event: Driving through the desert at night, Fiennes David runs over and kills a Moroccan boy who's trying to sell fossils to tourists. No one at the villa seems overly concerned when David and his wife, Jo, show up with the dead boy in the back seat of their car. Complete with a pool and Moroccan servants, the villa belongs to Richard (Matt Smith), who shares the place with his aggressively boorish lover (Caleb Landry Jones). Based on a novel by Lawrence Osborne, The Forgiven eventually brings David into  contact with Abdellah (Ismael Kanater), the father of the dead boy. Abdellah wants to reclaim his son's body and insists that David accompany him to his home for the boy's burial. A man of few words, Abdellah travels with Anouar (Said Taghmaoui), an affable fellow with whom David is instructed to communicate. During David's trip with Abdellah, Jo keeps the laissez-faire approach to morality rolling,  sleeping with an American financial analyst (Christopher Abbott). The Moroccan landscapes add mystery and exoticism to an obvious takedown of Western decadence and elitism. David's tense encounter with Abdellah gives the story dramatic weight that almost saves the movie. Almost.

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