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Una - Film Review

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Published June 23rd 2017
Disturbing drama film from upcoming Australian director

Please note this review contains plot spoilers.

Australian-born theatre director Benedict Andrews makes waves with his first feature film, itself inspired by a controversial play.

Andrews has taken charge of the film Una, which stars fellow Australian Ben Mendelsohn in his most complex role since Beautiful Kate. The titular character is played by Rooney Mara, best known for portraying Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Una is an adaptation of Scottish playwright David Harrower's Broadway play Blackbird, which deals with the subject of grooming and child sexual abuse.

Fifteen years ago, Una (played by Ruby Stokes as a young girl), then 12, ran away with Ray (Mendelsohn), then 40. Una and Ray were neighbours in the same housing estate. They began having an affair and planned to go off to France to start afresh. One night, they were staying in a motel near the coast when Ray disappeared, leaving behind the frantic Una. She subsequently was picked up by the authorities, leading to Ray's prosecution and imprisonment. Ray did his time for four years before changing his name, marrying an older woman and starting his own business. It is from a trade magazine that Una discovers Ray's whereabouts and she shows up at his workplace to confront him. This threatens to tear apart everything Ray has built up.

Much of the dialogue revolves around the terrible events of the past, with flashbacks thrown in at various intervals. Mendelsohn puts in a sterling performance as Ray, who is trying to take his business further and maintain a respectable image as a family man when Una turns up at his factory unannounced, like a ghost from the past. Mara is equally convincing as the troubled Una, who still lives at home with her mother. The supporting cast (led by Riz Ahmed) provides some degree of depth to what can be considered a modern-day Lolita-style plot. At times, the portrayal of the main characters may seem over the top, more in line with the stage than the screen.

Una would resonate with fans of The Diary of a Teenage Girl due to the similar themes covered. However, it is much darker given the depth of the characters, as well as the attention shown to method acting.

Directed by: Benedict Andrews
Based on: Blackbird by David Harrower
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Rooney Mara, Riz Ahmed, Ruby Stokes
Distributed by: Madman Films

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