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 tells the story of a young man (Jin-seok) who starts experiencing strange things after moving into a new house with his family. Although he voices his concerns, no one in the house seems bothered by them. On a rainy night, Jin-seok witnesses the abduction of his brother. About 19 days later, Yoo-seok returns, but he has no recollection of what happened. Not only is his memory faulty, but Jin-seok also starts noticing other changes in his brother.
Plot Twist: After eavesdropping on a conversation between his mother and his brother, Jin-seok realizes that they are imposters. The shocking discovery compels Jin-seok to run to the nearest police station. When he tells the police what happened, they are actually quite baffled by his claims. A mirror reveals that Jin-seok is not a young man in his 20s but actually a man in his 40s.
What Is Going in “Forgotten”? (Plot Explained)
The man who has been impersonating his older brother is actually the sole survivor of a sinister tragedy. About 20 years ago, a mother and her daughter were brutally murdered in their house. For some unknown reason, the killer decided to spare the youngest of the family, a little boy. As the police never found the killer behind the crimes, the latter decided to take matters into his own hands.
All leads point to a man named Jin-seok. The young man and his team decided to kidnap the suspect to obtain some answers. To their surprise, Jin-seok had no memory of the night of the murder and denied everything. As a result, the team decided to try something different: hypnosis. The psychiatrist explained that Jin-seok’s memory loss was real, the event was so traumatic that he blocked it out.
Since violence doesn’t seem to work, the team decides to take Jin-seok to a happier time. That way, they will be able to recreate the events that led to that fateful night. Everything was going according to plan until the police arrested the young man. Apparently, he had been involved in certain illegal activities, namely fraud. They released him 19 days later, which would explain the “abduction” that Jin-seok witnessed earlier.
Jin-seok refuses to acknowledge his involvement in the murders and tries to run away again. In the process, a truck passes by and hits him. While lying on the ground, memories from the past start to resurface.
Another plot twist: it was the little boy’s father who ordered the hit. Apparently, the man created multiple insurance policies in his wife’s name, and now he wants her dead to claim the money. Also, the individual is someone that Jin-seok knows. He is the doctor who has been treating his older brother.
Six months prior, a car accident took Jin-seok’s parents away and left Yoo-seok in critical condition. Knowing that Jin-seok had no financial means to pay for his brother’s treatment, the doctor made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The deal was rather simple: kill the wife and leave the children unharmed. However, things didn’t go as planned. In sheer panic, Jin-seok ended up killing not only the mother but the daughter as well.
Right before Jin-seok was about to leave the house, a little boy asked about his mother and sister. Jin-seok told him that they would be back once he counted until 110. The kid did as he was told. While looking at the family portrait, Jin-seok realized that his brother’s doctor was the anonymous user who ordered the hit.
When Jin-seok confronted the doctor, the two got into a physical fight. During the altercation, the doctor slipped and fell from the rooftop. After his parents’ deaths, the little boy’s relatives took everything away, and he ended up in an orphanage.
Back in present time, Jin-seok is in a hospital bedroom. His captor is waiting for him to regain his senses. When Jin-seok woke up, the young man asked him two questions. First, why didn’t Jin-seok kill him? Second, was his father behind the hit? Jin-seok took all the blame for the murders. But his answer did not convince the young man.
The Ending of “Forgotten” Explained
The ending of “Forgotten” shows the young man jumping out of the window and Jin-seok injecting the poison into himself. Then a flashback from Jin-seok’s happy memories shows that Jin-seok met the little boy and his family prior to the incident.
There are many possible interpretations for the ending scene in “Forgotten”. Here is a personal reading of what happened at the end of “Forgotten”.
The ending of “Forgotten” means that both Jin-seok and the young man were looking for some sort of liberation. After learning the truth, Jin-seok couldn’t live with what he had done. Meanwhile, the young man finally found peace after knowing what really happened and who was the real culprit behind the events.
Jin-seok was able to live a guilt-free life because he blocked the bad memories away. However, once he realized what he had done, he felt immense remorse and guilt. Jin-seok is truly heartbroken about what happened, and therefore, he decides to take his own life.
The damage from that fateful night didn’t just extend to the people who died but also to the little boy who 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 murderer because he was the only one who saw the killer’s face (other than his late mother and sister).
Unlike Jin-seok, the survivor 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 sent him to an orphanage. It’s pretty bad, the man just can’t seem to catch a break.
Why did the young man kill himself?
After getting a confession out of Jin-seok, the young man fulfilled his personal purpose in life: to find the person who 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.
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 and 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.
Why did Jin-seok lie about the hit?
Jin-seok wanted the young man to retain a good image of his late father, so his happy family memories could remain untainted. The one who requested the hit (the doctor) is already dead. So what’s the point of dragging his name into the mud? In addition, Jin-seok is a person with compassion. He thought if he took all the blame for the murders, then he would be able to spare the young man from the ugly truth: that his father wanted his mother dead.
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 the dirty job done makes him an even more hateful person.
Although the doctor said that he did it for kids, personally, I don’t buy it. In my opinion, he is one of those people who wants to have their cake and eat it too. In other words, the doctor didn’t want to make sacrifices (due to the financial crisis), he wanted to keep up with the appearances. To be honest, Jin-seok had a better moral compass than the doctor. He proves that at the end, when he decides 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 they can’t really pinpoint exactly what. Having said that, “Forgotten” is definitely one of the best mystery thrillers that South Korean cinema has produced in a while.