Una: LFF Film Review

una

Rooney Mara shows off her stellar British accent in this film adaptation of David Harrower’s play Blackbird, which has been revived on the stage many times, mostly recently with Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams in the lead roles.

Una travels to a factory to meet with Ray (Ben Mendelsohn), now called Peter, after discovering his picture in a newspaper. She hasn’t seen him since she was 13 and Ray, in his late 30s/early 40s and her neighbour, left her in a town they had run away to together to start a relationship, something which he spent four years in prison for.

I haven’t seen the play so I can’t comment on how loyal it is but you could tell it was based on a play due to its staging. A lot of the confrontation takes place in the staff cafeteria, with it occasionally opening out to other parts of the factory and the homes of Una, Peter and his colleague Scott (Riz Ahmed).

What I loved was the complexity of the characters – it would have been so easy to make them the stereotypical victim and abuser but they’re not. They are fully-rounded, real people. You should be disgusted with Ray but you don’t and you feel sorry for him more than anything. Mendelsohn did a fantastic job making him so human.

Una’s feelings are all over the place and Mara did an impressive job navigating all that, especially as she could be hating him one moment and trying to seduce him the next. She could be calling it abuse in one breath and love in another. It was fascinating seeing these shifts and it was so intense cos I had no idea where it was going to end up.

This is heavy stuff but it’s so gripping, handles such a taboo/controversial topic well and offers incredible performances from the two leads, especially Mara.

Seen as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival. It is currently without a cinema release date. 

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