Wednesday, September 14, 2022

(Not French) Movie Wednesday

So, back in 2012 a book came out that I was a big fan of, Lawrence Osborne's The Forgiven (link is to my review). Both the film and the book tell the story of David and Jo Henniger, a wealthy couple on their way to a lavish party in the desert of Morocco. On the way they hit and kill a young man, Driss, who was trying to stop their car. They take the body to the party and then the family shows up.  What happens is both inexorable and agonizing. The book is lush and atmospheric and genuinely suspenseful, a vivid morality tale crossed with a travelogue. When I heard about the movie, which came out last year, I was nervous and hopeful.  Well, it was pretty great.

The movie stars Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain as David and Jo, along with Matt Smith as the party's host and Saïd Taghmaoui as David's guide and companion into the world of Moroccan Berbers. Fiennes get David's disdain and eventual transformation so right; honestly I don't remember enough about the book to tell you how faithful an adaptation it is but I feel like it's probably pretty close, and the filmmakers certainly get the tone and atmosphere and the characters. Matt Smith is great; his character reacts to the accident with enough concern to make him likeable and enough pragmatism to wear the edge off of his likeability just ever so much. Taghmaoui is an actor you might recognize from Wonder Woman (2017) among other things, and I just always enjoy the heck out of him. 
The movie touches on a lot of issues around colonialism, whiteness, culture clash and more. The characters don't exactly have secrets but everyone is more complicated than they let on-just like in real life. The one place the movie let me down was not giving Driss any character development or backstory like Osborne does in the book. There is one, sweet, character detail included that touches David deeply, not that it does him any good.

I'm not someone who believes the book is always better than the movie; here I think we have a very good book that was made into a very solid movie. It looks great, it sticks to the source and the actors bring it all to life. The run time is just under two hours but it really flies by. I was glued to the screen; you will be, too.

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