Una Review TIFF

The Plot

When a young woman (Rooney Mara) unexpectedly arrives at an older man’s (Ben Mendelsohn) workplace, looking for anwers, 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.

The Good

Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn give two incredibly strong performances in this adaptation of David Harroway’s play, Blackbird. Set mainly in the wide open spaces of a warehouse closing down for the day, Una sees its titular character (Mara) coming face to face with Peter (Mendelsohn) otherwise known as Ray, a convicted paedophile who was locked away for his sexual abuse of Una at age 13.

For the most part, Una relies heavily on its two main actors, with dialogue heavy scenes which are effective thanks to the raw emotions brought by Mara and Mendelsohn.

The Bad

Were it not for its enigmatic lead performances, Una would have been much more effective in a Sunday night slot on ITV than on a cinema screen. While Harroway’s script is enthralling, its setting does not translate as well on screen as it does on stage, with Peter/Ray running around the warehouse he works in, attempting to avoid colleagues and his boss while he tries to deal with the sudden arrival of Una.

Meanwhile, Una is left to roam around the warehouse in what feels like a scenario consistently growing increasingly preposterous. Also of note is Riz Ahmed as Scott, a colleague of Peter. Ahmed is, as always, an instantly intriguing character if somewhat criminally underused in this story. Had his character been given more to do than just to lead Una towards the films finale which breaks out of the warehouse, it could have given the whole story more gravitas.

While Una tackles a serious subject, it rarely finds out what route it wants to take and when it does it becomes all the more unsettling. Serving as almost a sex abusing apologist play.

The Ugly Truth

While the initial plot is intriguing, not even its enigmatic stars and the raw emotion they bring to the screen are enough to fill out what is essentially an ITV Sunday night special.

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