What you see is what you get with Not to Forget, a faith-based family drama from writer-director Valerio Zanoli. Chris (Tate Dewey) is a young man living on the wrong side of the law. He’s handsome, clever and immediately likable — all the necessary prerequisites for a successful con artist. If he’d grown up with a close family, he might’ve been a decent salesman or actor, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. At a young age, his mother was killed in a car accident caused by his father — who was subsequently sent to prison, leaving Chris to fend for himself. Everything is going great until a scam lands him in front of a judge (Olympia Dukakis) who sentences him to four weeks of house arrest with a grandmother, Melody (Karen Grassle), whom he barely remembers.
Unfortunately, Melody is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but still lives on her own in a large old Kentucky mansion with only Joe (Kevin Hardesty), an employee, to keep her company. Joe has spent years by her side and is the beneficiary of her estate in the event of her passing. This rankles Chris, who initially doesn’t care about Melody’s illness and just wants to see her money pass on to him. He’s more bothered by the lack of cell reception on her rural farm.
All of this is clearly building to inevitable lessons about family and caring for others, with little diversion from the clear-cut story structure upon which faith-based family films are based. Frankly, that’s fine. There are a number of schemes Chris tries to pull on Melody and Joe, including dressing up as Jesus to convince his ailing relative to hand over the keys to the kingdom. It’s easy to empathize with him given his tragic backstory, but Chris really is a massive, insensitive jerk, and that means his hijinks are actually pretty entertaining. It would be understandable if the film had rounded off his hard edges, so I’m glad they remain.
It’s a credit to Zanoli’s script and the cast he assembled that these characters come alive, given how closely they otherwise hew to genre archetypes. Thanks to the actors and humor of the film, a late-game twist feels both obvious and emotionally satisfying. The faith-based elements are present but not overbearing. There isn’t otherwise a whole lot to say about Not to Forget, which does its job admirably and not much more. That’s enough.