Forgotten Man, 2017.
Directed by Arran Shearing
Starring Toby Wharton, Obi Abili, Will Alexander, Oya Bacak and Tyler Dawson.
A troubled young actor in an East London Theatre Company for the homeless romances a wealthy out-of-towner in the bustling streets of contemporary London.
Written and directed by debut feature filmmaker, Arran Shearing, Forgotten Man follows Carl, a homeless man struggling to get by on the streets of London until he began working with a theatre company in East London for the homeless. After meeting a wealthy American, who he falls for, Carl struggles even more with his history and identity.
From the outset, Shearing’s film sounds as if it has a foundationally stable framework. However, ten minutes into the film, Forgotten Man takes on a kaleidoscope feeling of short film moments stitched together by a central narrative that vanishes and reappears every twenty minutes. The film’s introduction manages a stable job of outlining the context of Shearing’s heartfelt narrative; however, its comedic overtones work to the opposite effect of destabilising the morality of his film.
Initially, the introduction of Forgotten Man arouses feelings of isolation and solitude, which is further reinforced by the black and white cinematography used to reflect the main protagonist’s state of mind after becoming homeless; this aesthetic is challenged right away within the first scene, where Shearing chooses to implement a quirky off-beat humour which ultimately undermines the drama of Carl’s situation. This is not to say that Shearing’s film is unfunny; there are genuine well written hilarious moments. The difference is that they don’t remain consistent. Without this consistency, Forgotten Man ultimately seems uncertain of its own direction.
Building on this uncertainty, the two central narrative points detailing Carl’s dissolving connections to the theatre group and his growing love interest in Meredith are not utilised to their true effect. The relationship between Carl and Meredith is stereotypically cliché. Shearing carefully follows a paint by numbers narrative of a love blooming between an affluent rich girl and a poor, down on his luck boy. We don’t learn enough of Carl’s situation and the reasons behind his rough sleeping situation to care enough about the relationship between both characters. The narrative mistakenly focuses too much on Carl and Meredith’s interest in one another, while the secondary focus shifts to randomly displaying characters associated with the homeless theatre group for only moments at a time.
These secondary characters are genuinely original and carry a substantial amount of the audience’s interest in the narrative. Although this is only due to the fact we hope to learn more about them as the film progresses. Don’t hold your breath. Shearing, unfortunately, lacks the confidence to look at these characters more deeply, instead choosing to randomly place their involvement throughout the script. This is possibly done to illustrate Carl’s growing distance from the theatre, although there is no foundation to build this progression on. Simply put, there is not enough time devoted to investigating their lives or connections to the community. This lack of insight also empathises how a film so reliant on location and topography, fails in establishing a context to the community these characters make up.
Furthermore, the tension that arises from Carl’s growing lack of interest in the theatre after meeting Meredith underplays the foregone conclusion of Forgotten Man. One of the finest scenes in Shearing’s film plays out between Carl and Allen in the final act. The acting is faultless and the deliverance was compelling, yet this emotion and drama exploded in the final act without any real build up. The viewer ends up more or less surprised by the films sudden escalation, because of the needless time wasted showing other characters without developing them. There exists such little dialogue that connects each character together that the film’s five chapters only reinforce that feeling of segmentation. It seems entirely evident that Shearing was trying to create a film in the same style of Woody Allen and Richard Linklater, based heavily on character development and humour. Unfortunately, the film’s lack of consistency prevents it from cleanly tying in all Shearing’s thematic ideas. There remains little to no united substance connecting the narrative to the style or pacing.
Ultimately, Forgotten Man is a forgettable film. You wish it to be everything it could be, but the film’s ambitions are clearly stifled by a confusing and messy formation. The only consistency in Forgotten Man is the cinematography. It seems to be the only reliable form that unflinchingly holds its own throughout the changing complexity of Shearing’s film. That being said, the acting is thoughtful generally above par. There is a strong narrative to tell here; it’s just a shame it only exists as a backdrop to an overused and recycled central story.
Forgotten Man will be screening at the East End Film Festival in June.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★