Director: Benedict Andrews
Written by: David Harrower based on his play “Blackbird”
Cast: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Tobias Menzies, Indira Varma, Tara Fitzgerald, Riz Ahmed
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 9/26/17
Opens: October 13, 2017
If you were a 27-year-old woman who had carried on a Lolita-style affair with a man 15 years older, how would you feel about the molestation? Would you forget about it and move on? Would you want revenge, maybe even think of killing him? Would you feelings be confused if after he did time, you tracked him down to learn more about his feelings? The Scottish writer David Harrower’s 2005 play called “Blackbird,” inspired in part by the crimes of sex offender Toby Studebaker, starred Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams. If you saw that, you would likely say that Harrower knows how to write women.
I’d be inclined to agree, at least to some extent, since “Una,” the name given to the film release, tracks its theatrical origins with a center that is a two-hander between Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) and Una (Rooney Mara), with ample time given to Una’s life fifteen years earlier and played by Ruby Stokes. Needless to say there are flashbacks hitting the screen each time that the mature Una finds herself in a situation similar to that experienced years earlier, but ultimately Una remains a movie version of a theater work that is insufficiently opened up to make for a top-level production. Nor does it help that much of the dialogue uses British accents (Mara is from Westchester County, New York while Mendelsohn is Australian).
One can’t help thinking of Rooney Mara’s role in “The Social Network,” the film that gave her a big boost, a college student who rejects the pretentious young man who would become the founder of Facebook. Here she has a different role: instead of rejecting the man who did not put her down verbally like Zuckerberg character, she can’t get enough of him: she thinks about her molester regularly, a man whom she thought loved him and who disappeared leaving her in a motel room alone after a three-months’ affair. When she sees his picture in the paper, she tracks him down to a huge factory where he had taken a new name, Peter. She visits the factory during working hours, insists on seeing him, gets together with him in a break room and then in a bathroom stall where they have sex.
She is a woman with conflicted emotions, while he, having served time and now living with a new identity, would like to get rid of her. Or would he? Anger, curiosity and confusion create havoc in her mind, leading her at one point to fling objects in the break room into the walls. But clearly she has not gotten over her months of love on the cusp of adolescence.
Despite her craziness, part of her desires revenge while she is to get him out of her mind Whatever harm she does to him now is nothing like what Ellen Page’s character in “Hard Candy” manages when she gets her hands on her rapist. In that sense “Una” is more complex than Page’s Hayley Stark, but given the way much of the dialogue is whispered, with the film sound kept low, “Una” comes across less than satisfying.
Unrated. 94 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B+
Acting – B-
Technical – C
Overall – C+