Dir:Joseph Ruben. US. 2004. 90mins.

Itstarts out feeling like a slightly soppy episode of The X-Files, withmotherly love replacing paranoia as the driving emotion. But teasing thriller TheForgotten gets perked up by a handful of judiciously used special effectsand a sense of mystery that could be described as Shyamalan-esque (as in MNight). The added ingredients turn the film into a more than serviceable latesummer/early autumn release that should deliver handy profits for producerRevolution Studios and distributor Sony.

WithJulianne Moore as its marquee name, TheForgotten has already achieved a better than expected opening in the US - afirst weekend gross of $22m from 3,104 screens-- probably thanks to a PG-13rating and elements that have appealed to both women and men in a fairly wideage range. Word of mouth should fuel a decent theatrical run and ensure strongdemand for the DVD release.

Moore'sinternational pull and the X-Files/Shyamalan feel suggest that the filmcould also perform quite well outside the US, where the autumnal look will fitin nicely with a rollout that begins in Europe in late October.

'Familythriller' expert Joseph Ruben (Sleeping With The Enemy, The Good Son)directs the story of New York mother Telly (Moore), who is still grieving 14months after apparently losing her eight-year-old son Sam in a plane crash.When cherished mementos of Sam go missing Telly at first blames husband Jim(Edwards, from ER). But then both Jimand psychiatrist Dr Munce (Sinise, from TV's new CSI: New York) suddenlytry to tell Telly that she is delusional and that Sam never existed. Evenreports of the crash seem to have vanished from newspaper archives.

Refusingto deny her love for Sam, Telly seeks out Ash (West, from Mona Lisa Smile), the father of another victim of the crash. Thetwo parents, pursued by suspicious-seeming FBI agents, set out to discover thetruth behind their kids' disappearance.

Heavyweightmaternal yearning sets the early tone, with repeated flashbacks of goldenmoments between Telly and Sam. Things get more interesting when Ash, a formerice hockey player who uses booze to obliterate memories of his daughter, entersthe picture and the mood becomes more mysterious.

Rubendrops hints - like regular long-range overhead shots - that lead the audience(as well as Tally and Ash) towards the conclusion that somethingextra-terrestrial is messing with the human race. But rather than working up toa Shyamalan-style revelation, the film gradually confirms that conclusion andthen stops short: apart from a cursory explanation in the climactic scene wenever really learn the who, what and why behind Telly's ordeal. It's anapproach that might frustrate some moviegoers but one that saves the film fromhaving to zoom off into sci-fi territory - and from having to answer someawkward plot questions.

Theeffects shots - in which characters are literally pulled out of the story - arebrief and infrequent but very effective. Besides giving the audience a seriesof good old-fashioned jolts, the shots act as clues and at the same timeheighten the sense of mystery.

Mooreis watchable (her red hair stands out from the film's mostly gray-blue colourscheme) but a little melodramatic. UK-born West makes a likeable sidekick.

Oddly, the film makes verylittle use of a relatively strong supporting cast. Woodard's sympathetic copseems set to play an important role but vanishes before getting very involved.Sinise's psychiatrist only figures prominently at the start and end of storyand Edwards only gets a few scenes early on in the action.

Prod cos: Revolution Studios, Jinks/Cohen Company
US dist:
Columbia Pictures
Int'l dist:
Columbia TriStar FilmDistributors International
Exec prods:
Todd Garner, SteveNicolaides
Joe Roth, Dan Jinks, BruceCohen
Gerald Di Pego
Anastas Michos
Prod des:
Bill Groom
Richard Francis-Bruce
James Horner
Main cast:
Julianne Moore,Dominic West, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard, Linus Roache, Anthony Edwards