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Forever (2004)

  Directed by: Benjamin P. Speth
Written by: Benjamin P. Speth
Starring: Helen George, Joshua George
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 5.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Forever (2004) is also mentioned in pearly's review of The Finished People (2003).

"Misdirection?" - a review by pearly

I saw this film at ACMI, where they were screening it along with a Question & Answer session with writer/director Benjamin P. Speth. A Q&A after a film can be a very satisfying way to have a bit more of a think about what you've just seen, and can help you to appreciate a film more than you would have otherwise. In this case, however, I'm not sure that it really helped.

Forever is part autobiographical, part drama. To begin with, it focuses on a family which consists of mother Helen George and son Joshua George. Joshua was, at the time of filming, 9, and he has Autism Spectral Disorder. He thrives on repetition, and this is summed up in the title of the film, which is based on a repeated interaction between mother and son, where one of them says "Love Hearts", and the other responds with "Forever".

What is shown of this family is very normal. Josh watches television as his mum prepares the dinner, and the two eat in front of the TV and then play a board game. In the morning, they wake up, and mum helps Josh get ready, by telling him to dry behind his ears and under his arms. And then, they go for a walk. It looks like they go the same way every day, and perhaps they're going to the same place, though this isn't made clear. In the evenings, after Josh has gone to bed, Helen has a job as a phone sex-line operator.

For this part of the film, I felt as though I was watching a documentary about a relationship between a mother and a her child, and furthermore, the special bond that occurs when the child has a disability. But as the film went on, it began to change. The first noticeable occurence was when there was an attempted break-in at the family home, but this was not the last. What bothered me, though, was not necessarily the fact that the film had moved beyond reality and into drama. It was more the way in which it was done. Even though the film was not positioned as a documentary, it came across as very observational, and you couldn't help but think about the person on the other side of the camera. So, when there was banging on the door, and Helen became worried, I couldn't stop myself from thinking "why doesn't she just ask the camera guy to go and investigate?". To me, the differentiation between reality and fiction was askew with the film, and on trying to introduce new elements into the picture, the film suffered for this.

The Q&A taught me a couple of things about Forever. For one, it was shot on Mini DV, and edited on a G3 using Final Cut 3. But what it didn't teach me, and what I really wanted to know, was why Speth chose to take this direction with the second half of Forever. And it wasn't for lack of asking. Another person in the audience (so I wasn't the only one who thought this way), said that she knew her opinion might not necessarily be taken well, but that she felt cheated by the "dramatic" parts of Forever, and that she would like to hear why Speth chose to make a drama, rather than a pure documentary. I've paraphrased the question, which was actually worded a fair bit differently, but given it was also a question I had in my mind, this was what I took from her statement/question. In response, Speth said, basically, "Make your own movie" (it has a few flowery words either side, but that was the gist).

Okay, so this is a fair enough response, that lady in the audience is more than capable of going out and making something that is more to her liking. But, come on, Speth, it's a bit of a cop-out. It was a serious question, and, to my mind, entirely valid. Speth went on to say that he had made the movie that he set out to make, but that still didn't really answer the question. Were I to continue the line of questioning, I would have said "Okay, so you set out to make a movie in which [x] happens ([x] not stated here, as it would be a spoiler), and that's all good. But when you realised the simple beauty of the earlier footage of the family in their everyday life, did you even consider making it a pure documentary instead? And if so, why did you not follow this path, i.e. what made you decide that a dramatic piece of fiction ("the movie you set out to make") would be a better end result than an observational documentary?". But I didn't say this, because I feared that Speth was over that line of questioning. Which is a shame, really, as it's a question I'd really like a proper answer to.

pearly gives this movie 5 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 27 Jul 2004

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