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Forgiven, The


Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Christopher Abbott, Matt Smith, Caleb Landry Jones, Alex Jennings, Abbey Lee, Said Taghmaoui, Marie-Josee Croze, Ismael Kanater

Director: John Michael McDonagh

McDonagh made one of my favourite 21st century films in The Guard, but his output since has been as sparse as it's been disappointing, and he comes unstuck again with this journey to self-awareness through the Moroccan desert.

David Henninger (Fiennes), is a drink-sodden if upper-crust and wealthy doctor, described by his wife Jo (Chastain), whose own writing career seems to have petered out, as a 'highly-functioning alcoholic'. Together only in the literal sense, they are driving through the Sahara towards a swanky party at an opulent desert mansion, when David, inebriated as usual, runs over and kills a young native boy.

Stuffing the body in the car, the dysfunctional couple continue to their destination. The police are called and somehow rule the death as an unavoidable accident, but when the boy's father (Kanater) arrives, he insists that, according to local custom, David accompany him back to their home for the funeral and burial.

Back at the sprawling villa, hosted by gay couple Richard and Dally (alias Smith and Jones - sorry, couldn't resist it!), Jo kicks over the traces and begins a flirtatious liaison with Tom (Abbott) that develops into something more carnal and serious.

Fiennes is rather too far into his character here as the man on an unexpected journey in more ways than one, but Chastain and Abbott strike sparks off each other as the adulterous couple. Outside of their relationship, though, the film is often heavy going, despite cinematographer Larry Smith's awesome location lensing of stunning Moroccan vistas. Despite an interesting concept, McDonagh's movie never quite amounts to the sum of its parts.

David Quinlan

USA/UK/Canada 2021. UK Distributor: Universal. Metrocolor.
117 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 31 Aug 2022