In Valerio Zanoli’s family drama, Not To Forget, we learn that con artists aren’t bad; they just come from bad families. Chris (Tate Dewey) has taken up the con with his small crew. Still young, he’s managed to stay a step ahead of the law, though just barely. But, always finding a way to outsmart the authorities, his frequent judge (Olympia Dukakis) decides that he needs a change of scenery and orders him to live with his only living relative, Grandmother Melody (Karen Grassle), on her farm.
The two have not seen one another for a long time, and Chris discovers that Melody has developed Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize him. Her caretaker, Joe (Kevin Hardesty), and Pastor John (Louis Gossett, Jr.) help manage the farm and tend to Melody’s every need. They even take her on visits to a nursing home to see Chris’ grandfather, George (Eben French Mastin). Unfortunately, he has an even more severe case of Alzheimer’s.
Seeing that his grandmother is wealthy, Chris sets up the perfect con to nullify Joe’s Power of Attorney and transfer Melody’s wealth to him. He enlists the help of computer hacker Kim (Taylor Cook) and a millennial with a hundred faces, Jerry (Jared Egusa).
Not to Forget is a lite family drama. Joe has a secret, and Chris uses it to blackmail him. At the same time, Chris has unresolved issues with his estranged father, who was responsible for the death of his mother. Also working against Chris is Melody’s small-town community, where everyone knows each other and worse, they all like one another.
“…Chris sets up the perfect con to nullify Joe’s Power of Attorney and transfer Melody’s wealth to him.”
The film has all the advantages and disadvantages of family-friendly (slightly religious) dramas. There’s no real sense of danger or thrills for a story starring a con-man. The lead’s villainous deeds are more bad than evil, and a feel-good ending is all but assured before the movie ever begins.
But, what Not to Forget has going for it is a cast full of legends, including the late Dukakis and Cloris Leachman as one of Melody’s friends. In addition, Gossett, Jr. has embraced a career in family fare and brings gravitas to the stories of emerging filmmakers. Also appearing is Tatum O’Neal as the town’s doctor and George Chakiris as the bank manager who oversees Melody’s fortune.
My only disappointment, storywise, is I’m such a fan of the “con,” but here, it’s a subplot. There’s not much mystery there. This is a family drama and a drama about family. Throughout, Chris reconnects with his family and discovers why he is the person he is today. He has revelations about his character while spending time with Melody and eventually taking care of her. Writer/director Valerio Zanoli uses Melody’s Alzheimer’s to guide Chris on a path back “home” as he discovers the truth about his mother’s death and father’s responsibility.
I like my stories to be dark with gritty, highly-flawed, realistic characters and stories with high emotional stakes behind them. Zanoli’s feature finds itself solidly in the Hallmark Channel’s depth of storytelling — which works for what it is. With the proper expectations set, Not to Forget delivers on its promise of light family drama.
"…solidly in the Hallmark Channel's depth of storytelling — which works for what it is."