Rotten Tomatoes Critics - certified fresh 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - upright 88%
IMDb Rating 6.4


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October 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Yayita Claudita 9 / 10

rooney knocks it out of the park

This film explores the repercussions of an illegal sexual relationship between a 13 year old girl, Una, and her neighbour and father's friend, Ray.Fifteen years have passed and both of them are scarred and emotionally damaged by the affair. Una is angry and vengeful, while Ray has served four years in gaol before changing his identity and becoming settled in an age-appropriate relationship. Una finds him by chance and seeks him out at his workplace where he has achieved respected managerial status. The film shows their tense meeting and regularly flashes back to the tender moments of their taboo liaison.While there are several small parts for characters such as Una's mother and Ray's partner and workmates, this film is almost entirely a 'two-hander' with the leads played by Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn. Mara is best known for a string of recent successes including opposite Cate Blanchett in 'Carol' and as 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.' Melbourne-born Mendelsohn's career includes the Adelaide classic, 'Return Home', 'Mullet', 'Australia', 'Slow West' and a string of blockbusters. He even played Rupert Murdoch in Craig Lahiff's 'Black and White'.His role here is a career best. As Ray, he is startled, troubled, protective and terrified all at once. Mara's Una is difficult to read as we try to get to know this complex character in the space of a regulation-length feature film.With the main action taking place in a modern factory with just two characters, any chance of dullness is exploded by the exquisite production design, artful and assured camera work and the audacious editing. This visual extravaganza is set to the striking music of Jed Kurzel, South Australian musician best known for working on his brother's films 'Snowtown' and 'Macbeth'.But this is a British film, based upon the play 'Blackbird' by Scottish playwright, David Harrower, who also wrote the film's screenplay. The taboo issues and themes are expertly teased out through a sharp, Pinteresque script.This is the debut feature for director, Benedict Andrews born in Adelaide and educated at Flinders University but there is no need for cultural cringe here. 'Una' is a brave and inventive psychological thriller and one of the best films of the year. Challenge yourself.

Reviewed by CineMuseFilms 9 / 10

a tense essay on moral boundaries in a child sexual abuse case

Some of the most interesting cinematic style I've seen on film. Take note of the color and set composition throughout. All the actors are over the top. The pacing is perfect. Even the title resonates throughout the film and afterwards as the human condition. It's the cunning of the lies and the power of denial that can leave the viewer with a new take on the world as it really is. If you watched Bloodline on Netflix and The Night Of on HBO, you'll know why the actors in those productions are ideal for this film. As for the sets, every window, locker, bathroom stall, bed, door, roof, room, bar and backyard is significant for what is represents not just in this film, but as placeholders for how our minds work to make sense of the world. How to sort the difference between order and disorder in our society--the sad answer is in this film.

Reviewed by andrewbunney 9 / 10

Exquisite to look at, tense to behold. Challenge yourself.

Conventional genre movies work their magic almost entirely through manipulating stereotypes. But many powerful movies work in reverse: they deconstruct stereotypes to challenge our boundary perceptions. Themes like feminism, racism and nationalism, are regularly pulled apart to see what makes them tick. In recent years, child sexual abuse has been in the spotlight and it is overwhelmingly treated as a moral absolute. However, the film Una (2016) challenges the norm by exploring ambivalences in a case of blatant abuse. In doing so, it places the audience squarely on the judge's bench.Adapted from the acclaimed 2005 stage play Blackbird, this tense drama-thriller explores the moral ambiguities of a criminal act that occurred 15 years ago between 40-year old Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) and 13-year old Una (Mara Rooney). The emotionally immature Ray was obsessed with the lonely and precocious Una over a three-month relationship before having 'consensual' sex with her. By chance, the incident was discovered and he spent four years in jail. Since then he changed his name and has tried to restore his life. Meanwhile Una's world spiralled into an emotional void. Now 28, she has tracked him down and unexpectedly confronts him at the factory where he works. Instead of attacking him for the abuse, she demands to know why he abandoned her after their one night together. They continue talking beyond the factory's closing time, then she tricks another employee to take her to Ray's home where his girlfriend is hosting a party. At this point, the intensity of the factory scenes becomes diluted and the sparring inconclusive.This is an explosive mix of issues, personality and circumstance. The film consists mostly of their verbal sparring about the illegal 'affair' with dialogue ranging from hysterical, passionate to icy cool within an industrial setting that is claustrophobic and alienating. It is beyond Ray's emotional capacity to understand what Una wants, while she vacillates between wanting to restore her juvenile obsession with him and wanting to see him wallow in guilt for his crime. Every time we feel contempt for him, we see a piece of the emotional puzzle indicating human weakness but not evil. Every time we admire Una's determination to hold Ray to account, we see a glimpse of her complicity and manipulation. Mara Rooney and Ben Mendelsohn fill their characters with confusion and remorse. At the same time, they depict genuine emotional connection with each other despite the legal, emotional and moral prohibitions that still frame their lives. Their performances are brilliant.At one level, this film is about the horrendous impact on victims and the abrogation of responsibility that occurs in cases of child sexual abuse. At another, it pulls apart the stereotype of victim and abuser to shed light on how it can happen and its painful aftermath. Some audiences may be repulsed at the level of sympathy shown to the perpetrator and the implicit sharing of responsibility between a juvenile and an adult for what is entirely an adult crime. Others may be shaken by the idea that such crimes may have any moral ambiguity at all. In any case, this is brave and provocative cinema that cuts across the guilt versus innocence binary.More reviews https://cinemusefilms.com

Reviewed by ([email protected]) 9 / 10

Remarkable translation of a play to screen

After this film was screened at the Toronto Film Festival today, an audience member asked director Andrews about the skill of lead actor Mendelsohn in his portrayal of such a deceitful and manipulative character. The host repeated the question without the adjectives but fortunately the question was answered as it was asked. Mr. Andrews noted that many audience members didn't see the "Ray" character in that fashion at all. Indeed this ambiguity and its affect on Una is at the heart of this film as well as the play Blackbird upon which it is based. I generally am not happy when plays are translated into films but I found this adaptation to be quite the exception. The camera was able to extend the scope of the play to include scenes from the crucial events which occurred 15 years before the main confrontation which occupies most of the film. A brilliant first film from director Andrews which will hopefully reach the wide audience it deserves.

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