'Not to Forget': A Sentimental Family Drama
Updated: Apr 2, 2022
Early on in Not to Forget, it becomes abundantly clear just what kind of movie this is going to be. The opening scene feels like a bit of a misdirect, as we see our protagonist, Chris, pulling off a scam. But we quickly change course and cut to a court scene, where Chris is sentenced to house arrest in Kentucky, where his estranged grandmother lives. From this point on, the film feels like something at the intersection of Hallmark and the work of faith-based directors The Kendrick Brothers. Now if you're reading that sentence and cringing, this movie is probably not for you. But for those who like a good inspirational movie, this might be up your alley.
Once Chris arrives in Kentucky, he finds himself trying to pull off yet another scam when he finds out that his grandmother, Melody, has a lot money to her name than he realized. In addition, Melody has Alzheimer's, which Chris uses to his advantage when trying to get closer to her fortune. But, as he gets to know his grandmother a little better, he starts to confront his troubled past and finds himself wondering what's more important to him; the money or his family.
If my above description wasn't enough of an indicator, this film is highly melodramatic and very on the nose with its themes and characters. This isn't a bad thing per se, but it is likely to be the biggest turn off for some viewers. Most viewers seem to either love or hate movies like this, so your enjoyment will likely depend on how you feel about inspirational films in general. I personally am very mixed when it comes to these types of movies, as when they are done right, they're usually pretty good, but when done wrong, they tend to be awful. This film thankfully falls more into the former category, and when the film focuses on the relationship between Chris and Melody, it is quite sweet. Sure, the plot surrounding them is predictable and a tad overwrought, but there are some genuinely tender moments scattered throughout that I couldn't help but smile at.
I don't know how writer/director Valerio Zanoli got five Oscar winners in the film's cast, but they are the best part of the film. Louis Gossett Jr., Tatum O'Neal, Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, and George Chakiris are all good here, and help temper some of the film's more overly dramatic tendencies. (This film also marks the last screen credits for Leachman and Dukakis, both of whom passed away in early 2021.) They all play supporting roles, and some of them are only in a couple of scenes, but they are arguably the film's greatest assets. However, this isn't a slight to the rest of the cast, especially Karen Grassle, who plays Melody with a sense of authenticity that grounds her a little, while still feeling true to the type of film that this is. The character is written with some of the stereotypes found in films about people with Alzheimer's, but she brings some humanity to the role, which helps the film tremendously.
While certain portions of the film work better than I would have guessed, there are some moments that rubbed me the wrong way. The scenes where Chris and his partners in crime are trying to pull off their scam drag down the film a little, and are cringeworthy at their worst. A particular scene involving Chris dressing up as Jesus is particularly off-putting, and its inclusion in the film is just bizarre. However, these scenes are integral to Chris's overall character arc, so I can't say they should necessarily be cut. On their own, they aren't terrible, but in the context of the film as a whole, they don't fully connect.
If you're into inspirational films (especially those that are somewhat faith-based) or if you're just looking for something a little uplifting, then you will likely enjoy this film. For those who may turn up their nose at something like this, I wouldn't recommend it. I wouldn't say that this film is my cup of tea necessarily, but it's sweet and pretty inoffensive on the whole. All things considered, it's a tender and heartfelt film that some viewers will undoubtedly find touching.
Not to Forget is available to rent on VOD.