Based on the stageplay Blackbird, Benedict Andrew‘s Una has been in the wings for quite some time after doing the festival rounds in 2016. While lagging in its pacing until late, the Drama which has the leanings of a Thriller, garners our attention based on the strength of its performances from leads Rooney Mara and Ben Mendolsohn.
The Film centers on a young woman, Una (Mara), in search of answers after having had no closure for several years. At the tender age of 13 she is promised love and elopement by her secret lover Ray (a friend of her father and a neighbour). Their relationship is brought to light when their plan to run away together fails and Ray is imprisoned. Una now in her twenties, is left feeling abandoned, finding consolement in one night stands.
With Ray taking on a new identity several years later, married and holding a successful career, Una makes it a mission to find him, seeking answers. Was she used by Ray? Was he truly in love with her? Why did he abandon her? Why her? While tasked with having to let several employees go at work, Ray must also contend with Una‘s sudden resurfacing at his work as she threatens to destroy the new life he has built for himself.
Mara delivers yet another daring, complex performance as the older Una, capturing the void in her life left by the trauma of her youth. She is driven by a tangled knot of emotions in her desire to reconnect with Ray, seek revenge and also heal the pain in her heart. Like Ray, we don’t know if she means well or harm and whether she will harm herself. Mendolsohn also is fantastic in a challenging role which humanizes someone who on paper should be despicable, but he is believable and we can’t help but want to keep turning the page as the stakes are raised and things get uncomfortably dangerous late.
Una as a Film is unable at times to avoid its stageplay origins, its wordy dialogue fumbling in its adaptation to the screen. Also, in telling much of the past off-screen through dialogue and understated visuals, this leaves much to the imagination of the viewer, helping negotiate some touchy subject matter in good taste. Ultimately it is the two leads here who make it interesting enough to keep us invested the entire way.
ABMO release UNA Friday, October 20, 2017 in select cities: