The Forgiven

I haven’t attempted a review in a while, so I thought I’d try reviewing this one.

I think it was The Times that quoted The Great Gatsby in trying to describe the characters in this movie, but someone who was leaving the theatre described it much more simply. “Oh they wanted to make a movie where you hate all the characters.” That isn’t far from the truth. There is, however, one likeable character: a Moroccan boy who ends up dead at the start of the movie. That’s in the trailer so I don’t consider a spoiler. But the fact that they are all fairly reprehensible people doesn’t mean the movie isn’t interesting. It is.

A gay British guy (Matt Smith) and his boyfriend (Caleb Landry Jones) are giving a party for their wealthy friends deep in the desert, far from Casablanca. They don’t seem to have any gay friends, which is kind of weird and makes it even weirder that they’re gay themselves. Maybe he’s meant to represent someone like Peter Thiel, an equally vile piece of scum. Anyway, Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain are late for some reason, so they are driving at an exceedingly fast pace in the middle of the pitch black desert when a boy shows up in the middle of the road and they hit and kill him. The two boys had planned to steal from them and the mean one (the one with the gun) made the nice boy, the one with the ancient fossil, go out into the road and pretend he was trying to sell the fossil. They take the boys identity (his wallet) and anything else he had on his person and bury it beside the road. Then they put the boy in the trunk and continue on to their party.

Understandably, they aren’t in much of a mood to party, but they must eat, so they go to the large dining table where only a few people are left drinking and when they are asked why they are late, she bluntly says, “We were speeding and hit a boy and killed him.” That sort of more or less starts the downfall of their marriage.

The father of the son shows up to claim his son’s body (news travels quickly and the servants got word to him). The translator (also another fairly nice character) explains that he must go with him to bury the child. At first he doesn’t want to, knowing that they will probably try to take revenge on him because… that’s what all Arabs supposedly do. But then he abruptly agrees to go. This was the one unmotivated and badly acted moment, but it passes quickly and the gist of the story is on.

While he’s gone, his wife decides it’s time to have an affair and has one with Christopher Abbott, who’s very nice to look at. I didn’t understand why she had the affair, but along with many other characters, they’re all just horrible people and the bulk of the story follows David as he makes his way deeper and deeper into “hostile” territory. Of course he learns more about the nature of Morocco and that it is either working for tourists in Casablanca, or selling rare fossils to white people. That is it. There is nothing else. There’s a very tense scene where you think it actually might be possible that they will kill him, but because he’s unlikeable, you wouldn’t be upset if he did get killed. But after a rage and vent, the father of the boy sends him back to “the faggots” as the British couple are repeatedly called. Still the moral question remains, and he asks this of the translator, “Am I forgiven?” There is more to the movie, as the long weekend party breaks up and Jo’s weekend lover goes off with some other girls, and as David returns from his ordeal. (Does their marriage still exist, etc.)

The biggest problem I had with the movie was the conceit itself: that there would be two gay guys in a country that’s hostile to gays, living out in the desert with servants, etc. There’s some lines that try to explain it. But it’s like a one couple colonialism. Morocco used to be a place where gay men went to have sex with young boys — they even mention this. But I don’t think that’s the case now. Maybe it is — I don’t know. I’m not into that.

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