A working-class-Brit coming-out story that’s none too surprising in outline but feels fresh in nuance and performance, “Forgive and Forget” offers modest, thoughtful seriocomedy until it stumbles over some ill-advised Big Scenes in the last half-hour. Resulting bad exit vibes might crop feature’s chances to get offshore theatrical play a la “My Beautiful Laundrette,” “Beautiful Thing,” “Like It Is” and other similar telepics. In any case, it’s a solid tube and specialty-rental prospect.
South Londoners David (Steven John Shepherd) and Theo (John Simm) are 25-ish, affable, ultra-average best mates — they grew up together, both work on a plastering crew under former’s dad, spend most free time getting soused, playing soccer and/or chasing girls in tandem. Only the diminutive redhead Theo hasn’t a clue his tall, athletic, tough-guy pal is in love — with Theo. David is loath to let anyone know he’s gay, fearing ostracism by Theo, their macho hard-hat co-workers and his loving but close-minded parents.
Nonetheless, that urge grows painfully acute once Theo develops a serious relationship with Hannah (Laura Fraser), an artist who’s wary after being dumped by her last b.f. They move in together, and insecure Hannah tacitly takes steps to distance the two men, viewing (not inaccurately) David as a rival — or, at least, a magnet pulling Theo away from domesticity.
Irked, David plays a minor prank that ends up working too well, making Hannah suspect that Theo is cheating on her, a circumstance she can’t bear living through again. Their love in real danger, Theo is inconsolable, but David can neither grasp the depth of this attachment nor reveal his feelings. He strong-arms Theo into a seaside “holiday,” and though the latter is hardly cheered, their friendship does seem briefly back to normal.
Script by Mark Burt does a fine job delineating the primary character trio’s unremarkable yet complex emotions, framing them in well-captured pub/construction site/family milieus. But a somewhat gratuitous running gag — glimpses of the titular, fictional chat show, a kinder-gentler “Jerry Springer”-type mix of real folks and hot-button topics — suddenly takes center stage when the reserved, oft-silent David decides to “surprise” Theo by addressing “Things We Should Have Said” on national TV. This twist would be dubious material for anything but a pop satire (or docudrama tragedy) and here it seems a ludicrous cheapening of character logic and story credibility. Pic’s restraint doesn’t support or prepare for the over-the-top melodramatics that ensue. A good little movie abruptly grows loud, large and heavy-handed in the last reel.
It’s an unfortunate downspin, since there’s much to enjoy here, particularly in the uniformly fine cast. (Only regrettable character is the construction-site architect, a stereotypical upper-class “ponce” who predictably fancies David.) Shepherd, whose grave handsomeness recalls Keanu Reeves (though his manner doesn’t — pic is a no- “whoa” zone), is a real find, convincingly rendering David as withdrawn, laddish and lovesick all at once. Apart from some killing-time interludes set to pop tunes, and the rather cheesy flash of horizontal-wipe scene transitions, helmer Aisling Walsh lends material both youthful breeziness and emotional weight.
Tech aspects and 35mm transfer from vid are OK.