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Even with Fiennes and Chastain giving it their all in a manner that makes the story far more engaging than you would expect, they can’t carry it all on their own. The most ambitious and audacious performances in the world can’t overcome storytelling that is otherwise safe to the point of being timid.
While The Forgiven isn’t concerned with making David a better person — rather to get him to fully grasp his guilt — McDonagh’s methods can’t distinguish the film from the long list of stories about white folks learning lessons at the expense of brown people. There may have been higher ideals in mind, but “The Forgiven” fails to gracefully reach them.
Given some time to think on it later, viewers might have trouble pinning down what it actually had to say about all those thorny subjects it seemed to be about.