Forgiveness is two films and yet none at all. A man, Tertius Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo), is greeted poorly by a family in Paternoster, a fishing town in South Africa. We learn he killed Magda (Denise Newman) and Henrik’s (Zane Meas) eldest son but the context remains unknown, at least for an hour or so. Director Ian Gabriel withholds crucial information from his audience almost as if he were trying to prolong the inevitable. Oblivious to Coetzee, men have been commanded to kill him, and it becomes the sick privilege of Magda and Henrik’s daughter Sannie (Quanita Adams) and son Ernest (Christo Davids) to entertain Coetzee’s ambitions until the assassins arrive. As heartfelt as Catch a Fire, Forgiveness plots Coezee’s quest for absolution—just as Phillip Noyce traces Patrick Chamusso’s terrorist uprising—as if it were a 12-step program: he accepts he has a problem, vomits, incurs punishment, does penance, and receives forgiveness. Meanwhile on the highway toward Paternoster, the assassins will lose their cellphones and blame each other for the death of the friend they hope to avenge (one of them, we will also learn, turned the dead Grootboom boy in to the police), which conveniently buys Coetzee the time he needs for Sannie and Ernest to warm to his goodness. No one will accuse Gabriel of pushing a glossy commentary about reparations in South Africa, only a shabby melodrama. Ultimately, the film’s stilted design is more transparent than clever, for which there shouldn’t be any excuse.
- California Newsreel
- 112 min
- Ian Gabriel
- Greg Latter
- Arnold Vosloo, Zane Meas, Denise Newman, Quanita Adams, Christo Davids, Elton Landrew, Lionel Newton, Hugh Masebenza, Jeremy Crutchley
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: