Review: ‘Una’ Examines an Abuser and His Victim

Review: ‘Una’ Examines an Abuser and His Victim


Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn in “Una.”

Swen Group

This movie begins with a shot of a girl in her early teens, sitting outside a house, then going into the yard next door, turning a corner, and seeing … something. In a matching cut, Rooney Mara, playing the same character years later, stands in a dark room with strangers as strobe lights flash and a synthetic percussion track throbs. Regardless of what the director, Benedict Andrews, intends, the aggregate effect is “Something bad happened to this person and now she’s into EDM.”

The Scottish playwright David Harrower adapted his two-character play “Blackbird” for the screen, substantially changing it to include flashbacks.

In the play, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) and Una (Ms. Mara) are a sex offender and his victim. In a confrontational meeting when she is an adult, they go over the knotty circumstances of the abuse, which culminated in their running away together.


Trailer: ‘Una’

A preview of the film.

By WestEND FILMS on Publish Date October 2, 2017.

Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.

Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Harrower expands the number of characters, to the extent that subplots form around them. These become actively distracting. In addition, Mr. Andrews, via tricksy lighting and focus effects, announces repeatedly that this is a film (his first, after years of high-profile work in theater and opera).

“I was never one of them,” Ray insists to Una when she tracks him down at the warehouse where he works, under an assumed name, after serving his prison sentence. As they recollect the past, an uncomfortable emotional intertwining seems to occur; the scenes that leave Ms. Mara and Mr. Mendelsohn alone are, tellingly, the most interesting and effective ones. Their performances are tightly focused and unflinching; too bad they are surrounded by a lot of heavy-handed, poorly aimed cinematic showing off.

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