The Forgiven is the new film by John Michael McDonagh, and is based on a novel by Lawrence Osborne. It’s one of those “eat the rich” movies which is very in vogue at the moment.
The story centres on a married but mismatched couple, David and Jo, played by Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain, a pair of rich assholes on their way to a big party in the high Atlas Mountains, out in the desert past Tangiers. They hit and kill a local teenager with their car on the way. David is little drunk at the time, and not knowing what else to do, they bring the body with them to their friend’s house. With the help of their host, played by Richard Galloway (Matt Smith), they report it, but the news has already gotten out, and before long the boy’s father shows up. He insists that David goes with him to the village for the burial. He’s suspicious and doesn’t want to do that. Jessica Chastain stays at the party and indulges in all the debauchery on offer.
Matt Smith gives the best performance of his I’ve seen, very campy, and Caleb Landry Jones—who has been a secret weapon for both McDonagh and his brother Martin—plays his boyfriend. It’s good to see both of them in a different sort of role than are known for playing. It’s also an excellent performance from Fiennes, not that far from his role in The Menu, which is also good. I actually think his acting has gotten better as he’s gotten older. Chastain is the loosest I’ve ever seen her in anything, in a good way and looks great and has some very memorable scenes of snorting cocaine. Christopher Abbot, a great young actor, also has a superb part in it as one of the guests.
If you like John Michael McDonagh’s work, which is not for everyone, you’ll find it’s a funny black comedy with that great dialogue, a satisfyingly nasty spirit.It’s really well shot, but it’s hard not to get a good shot in the Moroccan desert… It completely condemns these characters and highlights their absurdity. There’s no redeeming factors for these people, as if the director is trying to respond to the silly criticisms of his brother Martin’s film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s certainly one of the best “rich people doing bad things” films made in recent years, something that is increasingly becoming a genre unto itself. It may be a little heavy-handed, but that’s something McDonagh doesn’t shy away from. The one false note is that you kind of see the twist at the end coming from a mile away.
In sum, The Forgiven is one of the underrated films of 2022—it’s quite entertaining, and you could definitely do worse. If you are a huge fan of The White Lotus, this is in a similar vein, with a different locale kind of White Lotus goes Moroccan.
The only extra on the disc is the film’s trailer.