Film Review: Una (2016).

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 94 min. | Director: Benedict Andrews | Year: 2016.

How exhilarating and such jaw dropping moments. I went into the movie with some expectations. You know, the typical plot, a girl abused by a man and she is still suffering from some kind of Stockholm syndrome. But this went much more unexpected than I thought. The tensions rised as there were many moments where their secrets could be outed to everyone. You thought that there was much more honesty going on only to find out that there wasn’t, which raises the bar that measures the level of drama.

Una is about a young British woman named Una (Rooney Mara) who had an abusive sexual relationship when she was just a teenager with her older neighbor Ray Brooks (Ben Mendelsohn), who now goes by the name Peter. Many years later when Una is grown up and after Ray went to prison, got released and started an entirely new life. Una decides to look for him. She unexpectedly arrives at Ray’s workplace, which she discovered from a news paper article where she noticed him in the photo with a team of people. She is looking for answers, but he’s scared that the secrets of his past will unravel his new life. Una’s presence stirs up things at his workplace and their confrontation uncovers buried memories and unspeakable desires. All of this is very threatening and shakes them to their cores.

Una was directed by Benedict Andrews and the script was written by David Harrower. The script is based on his play “Blackbird”. This film thematically discusses the impact that an abusive sexual relationship can have on a child, but it even goes a step further. In this case the child does not even recognize the abuse and fell in love with the guy who abused her. Perfect example of Stockholm syndrome, but I have to say that this film sometimes does make you second guess. At times it feels like the situation in the film is romanticized, while it is about something so pervert. It can also feel as if it is said that women or girls possibly instigate these types of relationships with their charms, causing men to do these things. Misleading justification for a republican right-winger one might say. Nonetheless, this is just a fictional story and one story does not represent all. I still think that even though this film sought to test the boundaries, it was still very appropriate. The film stars Ruby Stokes, Rooney Mara, David Shields, Ben Mendelsohn, Tara Fitzgerald and Riz Ahmed.

Rooney Mara is heralded as queen of independent film cinema at the moment and rightfully so. It almost makes you want to find anything to criticize her on, because she is so perfect in her roles. I love how natural she comes off. It never feels like acting, it feels like she is in an actual real daily life situation. Ben Mendelsohn’s performance did not do under Rooney Mara’s. Even though I am for some reason more used to see him play the overt bad guy, which he is supposed to be as well in the film Una, but it doesn’t quite feel that way. His performance was perfect in the sense that he is enormously believable. He does not become the character, but he delivers what the character should be like. The only thing that disturbed me a bit, which has nothing to do with his level of acting, is that a child abuser is being humanized. Not trying to demonize all of them, but it just feels weird. Nevertheless, Mendelsohn’s performance was great.

The cinematography is beautiful, gorgeous images and a clean look. Everything is so mysterious looking and it helps to build up that feel. There was much focus on their inner turmoil which could be read of their faces in the many close-ups and tight shots where you either saw one of them or both of them. I also thought it was interesting how most of it takes place at one spot, Ray’s place of work, which is a distribution center on an industrial terrain. The lighting felt very natural and was used in the camera’s advantage to highlight the characters or conceal them.

Una is a very original film. I am overall happy with the outcome and the plot never bored me. In fact, it surprised me, especially the ending. This film had me on the edge of my seat, because you keep thinking, “don’t do it! Do not regress back to your old ways and don’t let him touch you Una!” I’d recommend this film to anybody who is curious enough to see where this film brings you.

In Dutch theatres as from the 13th of July 2017.

Genre: Drama | Language: English | Dutch Distributor: Splendid Film.

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