When first introduced to Unforgettable’s chief villain Tessa, played by Katherine Heigl, she seems to have been styled to look like Lucius Malfoy’s unhinged sister. She’s brushing her hair in the mirror, appearing like a Disney villain, and it’s at this point we realise exactly what’s in store, as this early sequence is tonally in line with what transpires; an overtly melodramatic, televisual endeavour that harks back to classic b-movie thrillers of the 90s.
Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) is overcoming a dark chapter in her life, which saw her ex-partner jailed for domestic abuse, and when we first meet here she’s sat in a police interrogation room, for Michael has been found dead, in her house – and accordingly to the law enforcement, she had reconnected with him as soon as his restraining order was up. Turn back six months, and we watch on as she remarries David Connover (Geoff Stuits), taking on the role as step-mother to his young daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). This is where Tessa comes into the picture, David’s ex – who is unwilling to come to terms with the idea that her child is to be raised by another woman. Initially her incessant involvement is merely a nuisance, but as time progresses her intentions seem nefarious, and we wonder whether she could have had anything to do with bringing Julia’s past into the present day.
Though thriving in sheer overstatement and downright absurdity, beneath the surface are profound themes that are interesting to delve in to – such as the challenges that derive from becoming a step-parent, as well as what it must be like trying to move on after being in an abusive relationship. But the balance is not quite found, and rather than enrich the narrative with a more human, poignant edge, it merely feels at odds with director Denise Di Novi’s approach, instead cheapened by the film’s irreverence.
Thankfully Dawson is on hand to ensure this remains watchable, as such a distinctly likeable actress, who relies on such affability for this role, as we need to invest emotionally in her cause, and that much is a given. Heigl is somewhat less subtle than her co-star, yet the pantomime-like villain approach works with the picture’s extravagance, with little commitment to realism. There is a vital injection of vulnerability to her demeanour too, particularly prevalent in scenes she shares with her mother (Cheryl Ladd), which gives the character an extra dimension.
But the film’s greatest shortcoming is its very own structure, beginning needlessly by sharing such an impactful element of the narrative. The cards are laid on the table right from the offset as we discover that Michael is dead. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Tessa is involved, allowing nowhere for the story to truly go from this point. It leaves so little to the imagination, providing the viewer with no real sense of mystery nor suspense, which is exactly what this film should revel in.
Unforgettable is released on April 21st.