Una Blu-ray Review


The only thing I knew about Benedict Andrews’ film Una, out on Blu-Ray and DVD this month, was that it was about a young woman who confronts a man from her past.

For some reason, I expected some sort of action thriller. I blame my usual diet of Hollywood movies for that misconception.

This is indeed a film about confrontation but its incendiary moments are of the less literal kind.

The story begins with a young woman called Una (Rooney Mara), who goes to visit an older man called Peter (Ben Mendelsohn) at a warehouse where he works.

All we know about Una at this point is that she lives with her mother, carries around a picture of the aforementioned Peter and seems deeply troubled.

Peter is visibly unnerved to see Una and the two find a quiet spot to talk, all the while having to deal with interruptions from Peter’s colleagues.

We then see, via intermittent flashbacks, that the two had an affair when Una was thirteen years old and Peter was a middle-aged friend of her dad, going by the name Ray and living next door.

Ray went to prison for four years and since relocated, changed his name and married. Una has found it less easy to move on.

The film then unfolds as the two tell their sides of the story and surprise each other along the way.

Una’s precise motives for the confrontation seem unclear until the point when you realise that’s also how she feels.

The story, as you may have gathered, is heavily reminiscent of Lolita, but at its heart is also subject to the same dark undercurrent as Rufus Norris’ superb 2012 film Broken.

The staged feel and location confinement was, as I admittedly only discovered afterwards, attributable to the fact that the film is an adaptation of a play called Blackbird by David Harrower, who wrote the screenplay here.

Andrews, who is more famed for theatrical direction, does a generally decent job in translating from stage to screen, helped considerably by the strong central casting.

Mara oscillates between fractured to domineering, while Mendelsohn convinces as a man who seems more afflicted by regret than guilt, and genuinely appears to believe that there was nothing untoward about their affair.

Familiar faces like Riz Ahmed, Tara Fitzgerald and Tobias Menzies provide some support, though given prominent billing it would have been nice to see Ahmed with a meatier role.

There are missteps. One particular plot development occurs about two thirds of the way through the film which, other plot twists accepted, I could simply not get my head around.

The story ends on an unsettling note but lacks a satisfying denouement. As interesting as their interaction was, it is difficult to see how either Una or Ray are in any changed since the start of the film.

A disturbing and interesting film, with terrifically intense central performances, though not without its flaws.

Conor Brennan

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January 2018
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