‘The Forgiven’ Ending, Explained: Did Abdellah Finally Take His Revenge? What Happened To David Henninger?


“The Forgiven,” structures its scenes in a Tarantino-ish manner and makes sure that in each and every scene, the stakes are always high, the threat is omnipresent, and there is a mysterious obscurity about the characters and the setting that keeps the audience always on the lookout for some catastrophic event. “The Forgiven” has been directed by John Michael McDonagh and is based on the novel written by Lawrence Osborn of the same name. Ralph Fiennes as David Henninger, Jessica Chastain as Jo Henninger, and Matt Smith as Richard Galloway do the heavy lifting, while being ably supported by the rest of the cast. There is a randomness to the whole narrative that keeps you guessing and thinking about what is going to happen next. The plot decimates your speculations and takes an unexpected curve that I personally didn’t see coming.

The motivation of the film is very different from what you would perceive it to be in the beginning. The progression of the screenplay is analogous to the peeling layers of an onion, where every discovery throws your expectations off balance. It is important to tell you that it’s not the happening or the non-happening of an event that creates suspense, but the inner discoveries and transformations that a character goes through, catches you off-guard. “Silence” also plays a crucial role in deceiving us, and we start assuming what our brain has been accustomed to seeing in all those superficial suspense dramas that deploy feeble-minded tricks, that lack depth and character. So let’s figure out if this randomness leads us to a conclusive end or abandons us in the middle of nowhere.

Spoilers Ahead

‘The Forgiven’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

David and Jo Henninger were traveling to their friend’s place, who used to organize these extravagant parties in his resort, situated in a remote place called Azna, in Morocco. All the locals knew about Richard, partly due to his sexual orientation and partly because of his opulent lifestyle. For the locals, it was an opportunity to earn some money by selling local products to Richard’s guests, hailing from first-world nations and ready to pay huge sums of money for things that were inconsequential to them. 

David was an alcoholic, and while driving to the resort, he accidentally hit a boy on the road. The local boy died on the spot, and David carried him to the resort in his car. David didn’t do it because he wanted a proper burial for the kid, or wanted to find his family, but did so to save himself from any legal implications. Richard was a resourceful man. He knew the local police. Captain Benihadd, came and asked a few questions from David, just for the sake of it, and closed the case by calling it an accidental death. But was it? There were marks on the deceased kid’s body that pointed to the fact that he had been run over multiple times. There was speculation made by the other guests that maybe the boy could have been saved, but David killed him to make sure that he didn’t have to bear the consequences. But even if one believed that it was an accident, the problem was that there was not an iota of guilt or remorse on David’s face. He was actually irritated by the unnecessary hassle that had come his way. Jo was a bit worried about committing an offense, but she, too, didn’t care much about the boy who was killed at such a young age. 

Hamid was a local who worked for Richard. He had a cryptic way of making his points. He spoke in proverbs and was quite sensitive to what was happening in front of him. Hamid was in no position to point out the insensitivity on the part of these people who boasted about their superiority and civilization. All they cared about was their weekend, and how it would get spoiled because of an inconsequential event. That night everybody partied, and till the morning, the guests had forgotten that anything had ever happened. But an unexpected visit caught them off guard. A man named Abdellah Taheri came from a place called Ait Kebash, and said that he was the father of the deceased kid. At first, the capitalistic instinct inside Richard and David made them believe that he would ask for monetary remunerations. But Abdellah wanted something else. He wanted David to come to his village, attend the funeral of his boy and pay his respects.

‘The Forgiven’ Ending Explained: Did Abdellah Finally Kill David Henninger? 

It was a very tense situation when Abdellah asked David to accompany him. Hamid also didn’t exactly translate the real essence and the tone in which the mourning father said things. Hamid told Richard and David that the father was persistent about his demand. But in reality, Abdellah would have agreed even if David had chosen to not accompany him. Hamid felt empathetic towards the father. David and the others didn’t even try to understand what Abdellah would have been feeling. He had lost his only son, and all they cared about was partying and having a gala time at the resort. They had preconceived notions that Abdellah had come to blackmail them, or maybe he was a part of ISIS, and was planning to kill David. Hamid translated the wishes of the father in such a manner that David and the others thought that the best way to mitigate the issue was to accompany him to his village and put an end to it once and for all. 

David decided to go with Abdellah, and amidst all the things, he was more concerned about keeping a clean shirt for wearing the next day. As soon as he left, Jo started entertaining the possibility of having a fling with an American guest named Tom Day. They shared some intimate moments and made the best possible use of their stay at the resort, while David traveled with Abdellah and Anouar, uncertain about what exactly they wanted from him. They reached Abdellah’s home, and David was shocked to see the state in which they lived. The intimidating Arab had a small bunker-like home, in the middle of nowhere. There was barely anything inside. Anouar had told him that fossils and children were the only valuable possessions they had. They lived in deplorable circumstances. The boy’s name was Driss, and he wanted to sell a unique fossil to the affluent guests. He knew that he would get a good sum for it, and then with that money, he could start a new life in Casablanca. He didn’t want to sell fossils all his life, like his father. He had stolen the unique fossil, named Elvis, from his father’s possession. Abdellah wasn’t angry that his own son stole from him. He hoped that he would be able to sell it and lead the life that he had always dreamt of. But fate had something else planned for him. 

Abdellah came to know that after hitting his son, David had hidden his ID so that the police couldn’t trace him back to his family. That night, David had to sleep in Driss’ room, as that was the only empty space that the bunker had. Anouar brought dinner for David and told him that for his people, there was no escape. They also wanted a life of luxury, but God had played a prank on them. He says that a renovation of a single bathroom in a first-world nation can keep a village in the Saharan region alive for a year. Such was the discrepancy in wealth and life quality.

The next morning, David wore his clean shirt and got ready. He was wandering off in the desert when Abdellah came and confronted him. He wanted to kill him and take revenge for his son. But the old man got a hold of his emotions and let David go away. Anouar dropped David back at the resort in Anza. Something had changed inside David. He felt empathetic towards the locals and Abdellah. He gave the thousand euros he had been carrying with him to Anouar. Hamid saw him doing that, and contrary to the disdain he had for the other guests, he now respected David. Later that day, everybody left for their homes, and on the way, David’s car was stopped by the same boy, who had accompanied Driss, and had seen him getting killed that night. David got out of his car, and the boy told him that a man should face the consequences of his actions. He couldn’t forgive David, like Abdellah did, and shot him. David died there and then, and a shocked Jo stood there in disbelief, with blood splattered all over her face.


“The Forgiven” is a story that urges us to get a perspective. It makes us realize how entitled and privileged we are and how we take all of it for granted. Sitting comfortably on our couches, commenting on our nation’s foreign policies, and being obsessed and selfish about our own trivial struggles, we forget to be grateful for whatever life has given us. We forget to be empathetic towards those for whom the things we take for granted are also a privilege. 

The film might not have talked about a totally authentic subject matter, but it is the stillness of frames and a deafening silence in each act that gives “The Forgiven” a convincing tint and, in turn, makes you uncomfortable in your own skin. Abdellah’s grief-stricken eyes speak volumes of the inequitable circumstances that exist in this world. “The Forgiven” is a hard pill to swallow, but it rips off the mask of hypocrisy and places the ugly truth in front of you in a raw and brutal manner. It might fall short of your expectations on many accounts, but it is definitely worth watching for its noteworthy intent.

“The Forgiven” is a 2022 Drama film directed by John Michael McDonagh.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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