This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Forgotten / Gi-eok-ui bam (2017). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Jang Hang-jun, Forgotten is a South Korean mystery thriller starring Kang Ha-neul as Jin-seok and Kim Mu-yeol as Yoo-seok.
Forgotten / Gi-eok-ui bam (2017) – Plot Summary
Jin-seok is a young man on car ride with his mother, father and older brother (Yoo-seok). They are moving to their new home.
PART 1 – What We See
At the new house, Jin-seok starts noticing some strange random noises and shadows. Although he voices his concerns to his family, they ignore him.
On a rainy night, Jin-seok witnesses the abduction of Yoo-seok. Nineteen days passes and the older brother returns home. However, Yoo-seok seems to have no recollection of what happened. The family believes that Yoo-seok suppressed his memories of that day.
Jin-seok notices small changes in Yoo-seok’s behaviour, which leads him to follow his older brother. As he was following Yoo-seok, Jin-seok is stopped by two thugs. They chase him around and Jin-seok has no option but to run. When Jin-seok thought he was out of danger, his brother appears from behind and sedates him.
The next day, Jin-seok finds himself sitting at the same place before he started following Yoo-seok. Still in shock, he locks himself in the bathroom when he sees his older brother and refuses to get out. Yoo-seok tries to convince Jin-seok that it was not real, and blames it on Jin-seok for not taking his medication.
Still unconvinced about Yoo-seok’s explanation, Jin-seok reaches to his mother and tells her what happened. At night, Jin-seok overhears her talking on the phone. Now, he’s convinced that his parents aren’t really his family. Therefore, Jin-seok runs away and rushes to the nearest police station. Then, he proceeds to explain to the police officers what happened. Jin-seok tells the police that people pretended to be his family in order to hold him captive, which leave the officers quite puzzled.
When the officer asks for Jin-seok’s age, he says 20, which made them even more confused. Finally, he looks at the mirror and sees an older man. At this point, Jin-seok realises that he’s no longer 20 but 40 years old. Confused and angry, he goes back to house and opens the door to the locked room. There he finds two mannequins laying down on the floor with fake blood. The family shows up and Jin-seok demands an explanation.
PART 2 – What’s Really Going On
The young man that pretended to be Yoo-seok, tells Jin-seok that there was a murder at the house 20 years ago. Mother and daughter died. However, the police never found the real killer. Years later, the victims’ family hired the young man to find the person that did it. After some careful investigation, the young man was able to determine Jin-seok as the murderer. Therefore, the team kidnaps Jin-seok and beats him really bad to obtain a confession. However, he doesn’t have any memory of being a killer. As a result, the young man decides to try hypnosis to make him remember. The psychiatrist suggests that the event was so traumatic, that Jin-seok’s brain blocked it out, that’s why he can’t recall that night.
The team creates a new plan. Now, the goal was to make Jin-seok go back to his last happy memory and recreate the events that led to that fateful night. That way, Jin-seok might remember what exactly during that night. Everything was going according to plan, until the police arrested the young man for fraud. They release him 19 days later, which would explain the the abduction that Jin-seok witnessed earlier.
Although Jin-seok believes in the story, he reassures that he never killed anyone. At a moment of despair, he throws himself out of the van and runs away. The young man goes after him but ends up hitting the van onto a tree. Jin-seok leaves the scene, but in a moment of distraction, a truck passes by and hits him. As he’s laying in the ground, he starts to remember the past.
PART 3 – What Really Happened
During a 1997 flashback, Jin-seok is on a car with his real family. However, all of a sudden someone else hits them. The car accident took away his parents and left his older brother in critical condition. Six months pass by and his brother’s doctor tells him that Yoo-seok needs surgery soon. Desperate for money, Jin-seok goes to a chatroom asking for a job. An anonymous user approaches Jin-seok: he wants him to kill a woman in exchange for money. He accepts. The anonymous user provides an address and the keys to the house. He instructs Jin-seok to kill the woman and leave the children unharmed.
Inside the house, Jin-seok stars to have second thoughts and decides to leave. However, a woman approaches him thinking it was her husband. When she sees Jin-seok with a knife, she screams. He tells not to scream and she abides. Meanwhile, the daughter walks downstairs and sees Jin-seok pointing a knife at her mother. She panics and runs upstairs to hide. Jin-seok goes after her and tells her not to scream. Out of fear, Jin-seok ends up killing both: the daughter and the wife.
Right before Jin-seok leaves the house, a little boy asks him about his mother and sister. Jin-seok tells him he’ll bring them back, once he goes to bed and counts to 110. The boy does as he’s told. Meanwhile, Jin-seok looks at the family portrait and realizes that the house belonged to his brother’s doctor.
Jin-seok meets up with the anonymous user and as he suspected it’s his brother’s doctor. Furious, Jin-seok demands to know why. The doctor proceeds to explain that he needed the money to keep the kids out the streets (due to the financial crisis). Apparently, he has multiple insurance policies on his wife’s name, meaning that he would be able to get a hefty amount of money with her death. The doctor and Jin-seok get into a physical fight. However, during the fight he slips and falls from the rooftop.
Back to the present, Jin-seok wakes up in a hospital. The young man is in the room waiting for him to gain his senses. He brought a syringe filled with poison. Later on, the young man reveals that he was the little boy. Then, the young man explains to Jin-seok that his relatives took everything away, leaving him to grow up in an orphanage.
Now, the young man wants to know two things. First, why didn’t Jin-seok kill him? Second, was his father behind the hit? Jin-seok lies, saying it was all him. However, the young man doesn’t believe him. In end, they both commit suicide. The young man leaves the room to jump out from a window and Jin-seok injects himself with the poison. A flashback from Jin-seok’s happy memories shows that Jin-seok met the little boy and his family prior the incident.
Forgotten / Gi-eok-ui bam (2017) – Ending Explained
At the end, there are still some questions unanswered. For instance, why didn’t Jin-seok kill the boy? First of all, he had no intentions of killing anyone that night, things just got out of control. Second, he really thought the boy would be fine, that he would have someone to take care of him. At the time, Jin-seok didn’t know he would end up killing the boy’s father too.
The second question would be: why did Jin-seok lie about the hit? The one that requested the hit (the doctor) is already dead. So what’s the point of dragging his name to the mud? In addition, Jin-seok is a person with compassion. He thought if he took all the blame for murders, then he would be able to spare the young man from the ugly truth: that his father wanted his mother dead. Jin-seok wanted the young man to retain a good image of his late father, so his happy family memories can remain untainted.
The final question would be: why did the two commit suicide in the end?
First, Jin-seok was able to live a guilt-free life because he blocked the bad memories away. However, once he realized what he did, he couldn’t live with himself any more. The man has a conscience and he was truly heartbroken for what he did.
The damage of that fateful night didn’t just extend to the people that died, but also to the little boy that didn’t. A kid lost his whole family because of a break-in / hit gone wrong. Jin-seok spared the boy’s life because he didn’t want to hurt more people. Ironically, leaving the kid alive, also left Jin-seok in this predicament. The young man was able to identify Jin-seok as the murder, because he was the only one that saw the killer’s face (other than his late mother and sister).
Now, why did the young man kill himself? Unlike Jin-seok, he wasn’t able to just wipe out the bad memories that he didn’t want. In addition, it must be disheartening to hear that your own father was behind your mother’s death. Overall, the young man had a very tough life. First, he loses his family. Second, the relatives step in and take the money away. Then, they send him to an orphanage. It’s pretty bad, the man just can’t seem to catch a break.
After getting a confession out of Jin-seok, the young man fulfilled his personal purpose in life: to find the person that killed his mother and sister. Now that he knows who did it, there’s not much left for him to do. On a more symbolic level, his death could also be interpreted as the end of a cycle: he gets to be with his loved ones once again, hence the smirk during his last breath.
Forgotten / Gi-eok-ui bam is a very clever mystery thriller that knows how to play with the viewer’s heart strings. Family is the keyword for Forgotten.
By the way, Jin-seok is not an evil person. What he did was wrong, but he was also desperate. The most despicable person in Forgotten is definitely the doctor, for killing his wife. In addition, paying someone to get to dirty job done makes him even more hateful person. Forget about him saying it was for the kids. Bullshit! He didn’t want to make sacrifices (due to the financial crisis), the doctor wanted to keep up appearances. To be honest, Jin-seok had a better moral compass than the doctor. He proves that at the end, when he decided to take his own life.
Overall, Forgotten is superb. As viewers, we are almost fooled until the moment Jin-seok sees himself in the mirror. In a way, the audience is also behaving like Jin-seok: something is wrong, but can’t really pin point exactly what. Having said that, Forgotten is definitely one of the best mystery thrillers that South Korean cinema has produced in a while.