This review of Una is spoiler free
IT'S ONLY A short time into Benedict Andrews' flawed but powerful paean about the complications of life after child abuse. When we have Rooney Mara's tile character Una, walking into her former neighbour's workplace to confront him about their past, specifically to ask him questions about his leaving after a sexual encounter the two had when she was 13-years-old. Written by David Harrower from his own complex play Blackbird. First time director Andrews depicts a series of heart wrenching events from a beautifully sun drenched barbecue party, with a young Una meeting her neighbour, Rey (Ben Mendelsohn) for the first time (fantastic work by newcomer Ruby Stokes), to him sitting in a court room awaiting a hearing in a couple of the many shining flashbacks. He shoots these brilliant moments with gripping almost real results. Led by Mara's brave naked performance and Mendelsohn's unflinching persona Una is a riveting drama which succeeds in almost all aspects.
It's not always an easy watch as Rey seduces this young girl, there's no graphic imagery on show but the words between Una and Rey physically describing what he did to her is enough to make you shudder. Physically she's damaged; she's been in constant pain for most of her life. Emotionally she's changed which her concerning mother (Fitzgerald) sees and tries to make amends by talking to her.
There are moments when her intent to be a hesitant woman bringing the good-cop-bad-cop routine card into the game, sometimes making her a brutal force sucking in all the sympathy. Rey, however, is the opposite, he is a broken man he feels sorry for leaving her in that situation. Throughout their conversation he begs for forgiveness hoping for one last drop of sympathy. Mendelsohn is so brilliantly nuanced here that he somehow manages to at least evoke a semblance of pity from the audience. While this works for a while thanks to Andrews' powerful direction managing to hold nothing back from his understanding of the characters to the general impact of drama.
It's not always on top of its game as there are buried problems - one is the pacing, some of the story fails to translate itself from Harrower's intelligent playwriting as some of it feels overly slow. And some of the flashbacks intertwine a few of the more important confrontation scenes. This unfortunately tends to be the bigger problem as it often can become difficult to follow a certain point of the story. Despite this Una is a riveting provocative drama with outstanding tour de force performances from both parties. Though uncomfortable in its material, it's a unique way of filmmaking which almost manages to be real - even after the credits have rolled it stays with you forever.
VERDICT: Worth the watch for the magnetic lead performances. But some of it feels that the play isn't correctly translated on the screen.
When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at an older man's workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life. Their confrontation will uncover buried memories and unspeakable desires. It will shake them both to the core.
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October 01, 2017 at 12:50 PM