Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb
Rooney Mara as Una Spencer
Ben Mendelsohn as Ray Brooks
Ruby Stokes as Young Una Spencer
Indira Varma as Sonia
Tara Fitzgerald as Andrea
Tobias Menzies as Mark
Riz Ahmed as Scott
Natasha Little as Yvonne
Director: Benedict Andrews
With deeply unresolved questions about her past, Una (Rooney Mara) travels to another city, turning up unannounced at Ray’s (Ben Mendelsohn) work and dredging up a decade-old experience that he thought he’d left behind.
Una was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016 (however it only really came out for the general audience in 2017). It was mainly the talent involved that had be interested, with Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, with that level of talent I was interested in seeing their performances (and I’m pretty much willing to watch anything that Rooney Mara is in). Having finally seen Una, I can say that the film is pretty decent on its own, with its direction and writing. But it’s the performances that really makes this movie worth watching.
This film feels like a play, which is fitting since it was based off a play called Blackbird by David Harrower (who also adapted the play into the screenplay for Una). This movie’s pace is very steady and with that slow pace, the movie does lose my interest at points. The film really excels in the scenes between Rooney and Ben and every single one of them are riveting (I’ll get into them later). The scenes that aren’t between them are hit or miss, most of them are fine, but some of them just weren’t as interesting as a lot of the other scenes. You also really need to know that that this is a dialogue driven movie, there’s a lot of scenes where characters would just sit or stand and just talk for a long time. As for how it portrays the paedophile aspect, I personally think it was handled well, you don’t see any of the actions on screen (thankfully) but you hear Una and Ray mention what happened, and the film doesn’t shy away from this disturbing subject matter. It was balanced suitably. Aside from the pacing and some of the less interesting scenes, one other criticism I have is that the ending is a little jarring and sudden. I have a feeling that I know what they were going for but it nonetheless felt a little unsatisfying, perhaps that was what they were intending.
The highlights of Una as I stated before are the performances. First of all we have Rooney Mara delivering one of her best performances yet with Una, and considering the performances she’s given (especially The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Carol), that is saying a lot. Una is a complicavted person, when she tracks down Ray we don’t know her intentions, and that ambigiouty is shown so well by Mara. Every delivery of her lines, every expression and especially the way she conveys so many emotions through just a look, without even needing to say anything is simply excellent. It’s quite frankly a perfect performance. Just as good is Ben Mendelsohn who gives quite possibly his best performance yet. He doesn’t have an easy job, he’s playing a paedophile after all. The filmmakers and Mendelsohn present Ray as human as possible, which to be honest is the only way to really portray this character. Had this not been handled right it could’ve failed badly, but along with the way he’s presented, Ben Mendelsohn truly is incredible in this role, his performance was just as perfect as Rooney’s. The interactions between Rooney and Ben are the highlights of the movie, they shared excellent chemistry and worked off each other incredibly well. Ruby Stokes plays young Una in flashbacks and she is very good in her role, definitely deserves some praise as well. Riz Ahmed is in this movie and while he is good in his role, ultimately his role could be played by anyone.
This film is the directional debut of Benedict Andrews, he is a theatre director and you can really see that, not just in the way the dialogue is presented but the way the film is edited and directed. This film doesn’t have a flashy direction but that’s good, it doesn’t take away from the focus on the actors. Una is also shot very well, I don’t have any issues with the cinematography. The soundtrack, while not that spectacular does give a lot of the scenes an eerie vibe. In fact a lot of the scenes have an eerie, haunting vibe, from the music, to the camera shots, to the editing, and that helped to make many of the scenes tense, even when nothing is happening.
Una is pretty well written and directed well but really the best reason to see Una is for the performances. Both Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn given some of their best performances to date and are absolutely phenomenal. If you can handle the lurid subject matter, I recommend giving Una a watch. I’m not quite sure if I would call it a great movie but it has a lot of great aspects to it, especially the excellent acting.