forsaken-1It shows just how far that the movies have shifted in the last decade or so when you look at the release of Forsaken. Fifteen years ago, a film starring Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, with support from Demi Moore would have gained a lot of publicity and a full nationwide release. What happens today is that the film played at a couple of festivals and then gets a DVD premiere if released at all before hitting the VOD market. There is no shame in that approach. It is hard enough getting film made and released. It’s just a little surprising.

John Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) has returned to his childhood home. He left to fight in the civil war but at its end he could not face the prospect of going back to his old life. He had seen and done too much and he was mentally scarred. He took up the life of a gunslinger for nearly a decade before coming to his senses and choosing to return to see his family. The town he left had changed. His mother had died and his father (Donald Sutherland), the local preacher is struggling to cope with a bad situation that is brewing. The railroad is due to come through the town and a local group of thugs, led by James McCurdy (Brian Cox), is intimidating the townsfolk to sell their now valuable farm land. John wants nothing to do with this. All he wants is peace. It is inevitable that he will be drawn into the conflict as pressure is directed at his father and his former fiancé (Demi Moore).

This is one of these small scale, low budget western films that have been steadily being produced over the last few years. The scale is small and the story is intimate, focusing on character rather than action. It’s not an overly creative story and if you have watched any number of western films before you will get a good idea of how the story beats will play out. This is not to suggest that it is boring. Far from it. Forsaken is a quiet and meditative film focusing on the relationship between a father and a son.

Kiefer Suherland dials down the angst for this performance. Usually, as in his TV on 24, it is all barely controlled anger and frustration that inform his take on a character. Here he comes across as a man who has been beaten down by all that life has directed against him. He is not broken, but in reality is not to far away from it either. What he is looking for is a sanctuary. A place that offers familiarity and comfort. Kiefer internalises his character struggle. There are no histrionics or even suppressed rage. It is all very understated.

Dovetailing nicely with him is Donald Sutherland’s performance. He is an old style fire and brimstone preacher who has little time for his son. The dynamic between them is awkward at times owing to their inability to communicate. It is a fault on both sides. You get a real sense of world weariness in the performance which ties in nicely with the younger Sutherland’s role.

John McArthur
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