Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) believes that her son Sam (Christopher Kovaleski) died 14 months ago in a plane crash, but her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) tells her that she's delusional and that they have never had a son, and Eliot (Jessica Hecht) doesn't appear to believe in Sam's existence despite her closeness to him. Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise) tells her that Sam was merely a figment of her imagination and that she is just imagining a life that might have been. He recommends that she be sent to a hospital, but she runs away and meets with a man named Ash (Dominic West) whom she thinks is the father of a girl named Lauren (Kathryn Faughnan) who was Sam's friend and died in the same crash. At first he dismisses her, claiming he never had a daughter, and calls the police. After she is taken into custody, he remembers his daughter and rescues Telly. Together they escape and go into hiding, pursued by National Security agents.
Telly and Ash capture and threaten an agent (Lee Tergesen), who reluctantly reveals that he and other agents are merely helping ″them″ in order to protect humankind. Without warning, the roof of the house blows off and the agent, along with the roof, is sucked into the sky—presumably taken by ″them″—and Telly and Ash flee. Eventually, Telly visits Dr. Munce again and he reveals that the disappearances are the work of ″them,″ and that the government monitors their trials, all too aware that they have no power to stop ″them″ from doing whatever they want.
Munce takes Telly to an airport and the dilapidated hangar of Quest Airlines, where he introduces her to an agent of ″them″ (Linus Roache). He tells the agent that it's over and to stop the experiment, because it will only cause more harm. But the agent replies that it's not over. He reveals to Telly that she has been a part of an experiment to test whether the bonds between mother and child can be diminished. In her case, her memories could not be fully erased. Telly refuses to deny her son's existence. The agent mentions that if he fails to erase her memory then he will look like a failure. The agent then subdues her and convinces her to think of the first memory she had of Sam. Telly thinks of the day he was born in the hospital, which allows the agent to successfully erase Sam's memory from existence. As the agent is walking away, thinking he's succeeded, Telly's motherly bond kicks in deeper, to before Sam was born, when she was pregnant, triggering her memory that she indeed had life in her at one time. All of her memories of Sam return. Before the agent can comprehend what's happening, part of the hangar roof is suddenly blown off, and he's yanked into the sky himself, supposedly for his failure to erase her memory. This ends the experiment.
Telly finds herself living a normal life, although she remembers everything that has happened. She reunites with Sam at a park. Also at the park is Ash, watching over his daughter. Like Sam, he has no memory of what has happened. Telly reintroduces herself, and the two sit and watch the kids play in the playground.Julianne Moore as Telly ParettaDominic West as Ash CorrellChristopher Kovaleski as Sam ParettaMatthew Pleszewicz as Young SamJessica Hecht as EliotGary Sinise as Dr. Jack MunceAlfre Woodard as Det. Anne PopeAnthony Edwards as Jim ParettaKathryn Faughnan as Lauren CorrellLinus Roache as Mr. ShineerLee Tergesen as Al PetalisFelix Solis as Detective BrasherRobert Wisdom as Carl DaytonTim Kang as Alec WongSusan Misner as Lisa FranksJ. Tucker Smith as Sheriff HowellAnn Dowd as Eileen
Principal photography mostly took place in New York City.
The film was released theatrically on September 24, 2004.
The film was released on DVD on January 18, 2005.
When the film was aired on basic cable the accident was changed, with all mentions of "plane" and "airport" dubbed to "bus" and "terminal".
Critics gave the film generally negative reviews. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 31% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 171 reviews with the consensus, stating, "The premise grows too ridiculous to take seriously". On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 43 out of 100, based on 34 reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4 stating, "The Forgotten is not a good movie, but at least it supplies a credible victim."
The film opened September 24, 2004 in the United States and Canada and grossed $21 million in 3,104 theaters its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office
The film cost $42 million to produce and it eventually grossed $67.1 million in the U.S. and Canada and $50.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $117.5 million.