Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Writers: Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, and Courtenay Miles
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan Viola Davis
The new Netflix film, The Unforgivable, is a crime drama based on a British drama series from 2009, called Unforgiven. Sandra Bullock stars as Ruth Slater, an ex-con who is trying to rebuild her life after being in prison for killing a cop. She just wants to see her sister again, but there are blocks in the way, at the same time she finds that being branded a ‘cop killer’ makes it a lot harder to get her life back on track.
The film starts with us showing the hectic moment that sent Ruth to prison. It doesn’t show everything, but enough to give you an idea. The moment is revisited throughout the story in flashbacks as it slowly reveals exactly what happened. Most of the film is set in the days following her release as she tries to settle into her new life. The people she has to live with in the half-way house are drug addicts, that go through her stuff when she leaves the room. The first job she goes for, which she had already been accepted on, rejects her when she turns up for her shift because she’s a convict. Ruth ends up working in a fish factory, before getting another job in construction.
Sandra Bullock is absolutely great in the film, her performance is really strong and believable. You feel for her struggle, as she’s trying to rebuild her life. Bullock is the best thing about the film and beyond that it feels very predictable and a wasted opportunity. Most of the side characters are wasted, particularly Jon Bernthal, who’s normally great in everything he’s in. He’s very underused, and there just to move the plot forward before being left to the side.
A lot of the plot feels like t hat as well. It’s there to create this really downbeat and depressing tone and once it’s done that, it’s forgotten about. The people that Ruth is living with, aren’t mentioned, or shown again once it’s been set up. There’s a co-worker who Ruth works with that hates her, but once that scene is done, then it’s forgotten. Everything has a purpose just to show that Ruth’s life is as hard as possible and that’s it. At one point Ruth goes back to the house where the incident happens, and runs into the new homeowner, who just happens to be a lawyer who can help her see her sister again. It’s very convenient. In the same way that everyone treats her poorly because she’s a con, except when they need to help her, so the plot moves forward. An emotional breakdown that Ruth has late in the film, is completely undercut by a character completely changing their opinion on her, because if they didn’t the finale couldn’t happen. It’s contrived beyond belief to that point that it loses your interest, no matter how good Bullock is.
The Unforgiveable could have been a really great film, and it almost is if you’re just watching Bullock’s performance and ignoring everything else going on. Instead, it feels like a forced drama that’s completely forgettable. It’s okay when it’s on, but you’ll likely have forgotten about it by the end of the day.
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