Forever Rich

A man's most sinister enemy is his own ego.

Jul 26, 2023
Dimitris Passas

A movie about the heavy price one has to pay for being a celebrity in a society which both envies and castigates the stardom phenomenon is the central theme explored in Shady El-Hamus's 2021 feature, Forever Rich, available for streaming on Netflix. The Dutch-Egyptian director and co-screenwriter of the film delivers a three-dimensional portrait of a young man living the high life, feasting upon the advantages emanating from his popularity, only to realize that the mask he is wearing in public is fairly easy to crack or slip. El-Hamus ponders on the ills of the modern cancel culture and the manner in which it acts as a motive for many young and disoriented individuals who are ready to do anything in order to become instantly famous. The story focuses specifically on the motif of humiliation and how it can act as an instigator of a chain of catastrophic events as it happens in the case of Rich, who will have to reassess and reconstruct his personal image during a single night. While Rich is definitely not a bad guy per se, he may come across as fake due to the macho bravura he exhibits while being with others, something that strikes as invalid even from the film's early sequences. Observing the protagonist's conspicuous character trait and overall ethos are the signs heralding what's about to unravel in the course of the 90 minutes of the production's runtime.

In the opening scene, we watch as a little boy exclaims his desire to become rich and famous, talking to his mother. In the following sequence, Rich has become an adult, and he is currently living his dream, reaching the peak of his career as a rapper, waiting to sign a lucrative three-year contract with a heavy-hitter label and planning his first big live tour. However, any sense of stability in Rich's life is upended when he falls victim to a mugging that takes place in an underground parking lot. The protagonist is forced to give away his precious golden wristwatch, while the experience of the robbery makes him so vulnerable that he begins to sob. The underage hoodlums that steal Rich and his friend shoot the whole scene on their mobile phones, thus creating a piece of solid evidence, proving that Rich is not a gangster as he likes to show but a pathetic wimp, or even more crudely, a "pussy". The video is rapidly spread around every corner of the Internet, and Rich's torture begins. Apparently, there is an indefinite number of online haters who instantly call out Rich, reinforcing his experience of extreme shame. What follows is a hunt in the streets of Amsterdam with Rich seeking revenge from those who embarrassed him in the eyes of the public, prepared to do anything, regardless of how extreme it sounds.

The question that hangs over the head of the protagonist like a Damocles sword, ready to fall at any time, as Rich makes increasingly reckless decisions, is "Who -really- are you?". The answer to that inquiry is the key that unlocks the heart of the narrative, which moves at a breakneck speed with some action-packed sequences sprinkled around, adding to the element of suspense. The electronic music score by Mihkel Zilmer embellishes the story with a vibrating cladding that works well, ascribing a certain character to the onscreen developments. Jonas Smulders (The Dinner, Broers) makes the most of his character's fragile personal identity, illustrating Rich's conflicting temperaments and inner turmoil stemming from the chasm between his public image and his true ego. His mother, Els (Hadewych Minis), a middle-aged woman with a fondness for hard liquor, exerts a tyrannical influence over her son and constantly reminds him of his early years as an insecure and shy little boy who wanted to sleep with her for several years. There is also Rich's wife, An (Sinem Kavus), who has recently born their first child and feels frustrated over her husband's immaturity that is expressed in a manifold of ways. At one point, she says to him point-blank: "You're not even a man. You're just a child. So fucking insecure", further submerging Rich into the deep waters of self-doubt.

To conclude, Forever Rich is a rather tense Dutch thriller featuring a story that is centered around Rich's character and moves forward briskly. Apart from that, there are some critical issues addressed by the creators of the film that leave nobody unfazed. You can find it on the current Netflix catalogue.


Forever Rich
Shady El-Hamus
Written by
Shady El-Hamus ... (scenario) Jeroen Scholten van Aschat ... (scenario)
Jonas Smulders, Hadewych Minis, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, Sinem Kavus, Mustafa Duygulu
Production Company
Fiction Valley
89 minutes

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