Title – Una (2016)
Director – Benedict Andrews (feature debut)
Cast – Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed
Plot – Troubled Una (Mara) decides to confront a man she knew as Ray and now known as Peter (Mendelsohn) after the illegal relationship they had when she was a 13 year old girl continues to haunt her everyday life.
“I don’t know anything about you”
Review by Eddie on 11/12/2017
Una is uncomfortable and unnerving viewing, a film that will make your skin crawl on more than one occasion but thanks to some award worthy turns from its impressive lead performers, Benedict Andrews film is noteworthy as a character driven, dialogue heavy expose of some very heavy material.
Andrews film, which is based on David Harrower’s esteemed play, keeps its stage play roots well and truly at the forefront as Rooney Mara’s tormented Una takes a road trip to confront Ben Mendelsohn’s factory foreman Peter, a man she knows from her childhood as Ray and a man with whom she had an illegal relationship with as a 13 year old teenage girl.
Largely taking place in Peter’s workplace as he and Una discuss what happened, what could’ve been and what they feel, we get brief yet confronting flashbacks to Peter and Una’s forbidden affiliation but mostly Andrews is focussing solely on Mara and Mendelsohn as the two competent performers work off each other too slowly tear away the layers to reveal their true motivations and inward thoughts.
Mara once again shows she is willing to be laid bare as an actress in another noteworthy turn while Mendelsohn, who has recently been cast more as a purely bad guy type role, gets one of his meatiest feature film roles yet as Peter.
His far from a likeable or respectable person but Mendelsohn plays him to perfection, giving Peter just the right amount of humanity and against all the odds moments of compassion.
It’s a role that could’ve fallen either way but the Aussie actor once more showcases why his regarded now as one of our all-time great exports. With Mara he shares a wonderful energy, while with the younger Una played by Ruby Stokes, Mendelsohn plays the role not predatory but more purely sad, a man consumed by feelings and urges that lead him to make his life’s biggest mistake.
Una’s greatest flaw as a film and ability too fully connect is strangely with the character of Una herself.
We feel her pain and understand the confusion and mental strain that has been bought down upon her but her reasoning behind confronting Peter and then her subsequent decisions from there are not that easy to understand. For a film that in many ways feels so realistic and raw, Una’s consistently odd behaviour is hard to take, even when at times she is a heartbreakingly broken soul searching for closure on her past.
Final Say –
Not what you’d call an entertaining watch, thanks to some dark subject material and sombre to bleak tone, Una is an immaculately acted tale whose flawed characters don’t always connect but thanks to Mara and Mendelsohn and Andrews carefully weighted hand behind-camera, this is a bleak drama that’s a cut-above many similar productions.
3 ½ Ferris Wheel rides out of 5