Starring Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Viola Davis, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan.
Directed by Nora Fingscheidt
Rating: ** ½
What they are doing to The Unforgivable is…well, unforgivable. Ever since this high-profile post-prison drama began streaming on Netflix last week, the reviews have been shockingly savage, unduly harsh and irrationally dismissive, so much that I even thought of skipping it. Luckily I didn’t.
I wouldn’t say The Unforgivable is an instant masterpiece. It can’t even be counted among the versatile Sandra Bullock best works…Or perhaps it can. She is certainly in her element as Ruth Slater who emerges from prison after 20 years for killing a cop.
Everyone who has seen cinema about convicted protagonists trying to rehabilitate themselves knows killing a cop puts the criminal in a special category of offenders. Even if the law finally lets you off, there are lawmakers out there ready to extinguish your life for the dirty deed.
Ms Bullock is terrific at projecting her bereft character’s abject isolation from her surroundings. Bullock has built an invisible fortress around her character. Ruth is no longer afraid of being hurt or harmed. She has nothing to lose…except perhaps the chance to meet her long-lost sister whom she lost when she went to jail.
The screenplay, adapted from the 2009 British miniseries Unforgiven written by Sally Wainwright, is never short of surprises,not all of them pleasant. There is one specially distasteful twist in the plot where one brother’s wife is caught sleeping with the other. I thought this was a fairly drastic and ludicrous method of rationalizing hate crime.
But that’s only one twisted plot point. That apart The Unforgivable is briskly paced and keeps us involved right until the violent slightly ironical end. Most important of all, it gives Sandra Bullock a chance to display how deeply moving she can be in dramatic roles.
I must confess, though, I am no fan of the recent Bullock who seems to have done something severe to her face. Only her eyes are still powerhouse emotive vehicles. She is devastatingly tragic as Ruth Slater.
There is a beautiful moment of empathy with a colleague from her workplace who gifts her a jacket.
“Why would you do that?” is Ruth’s bewildered reaction.
This is a woman to whom life has been extra-unkind , who expects no tenderness from anyone.Ruth is a woman on her own. Bullock surrounds the character with a citadel of silence. I could feel her hurt. The film features another great actress Viola Davis in an under-written part. Towards the climax I could feel the screenwriters struggling to amplify her presence by casting Davis as a soul sister to Bullock.
The Unforgivable is far more intelligent than you think and far more watchable than the critics have made it out to be. One of their grievances is that Bullock has made this project happen so she could be eligible for an Oscar.What is wrong with creating opportunities for oneself? Ruth Slater in The Unforgivable has stopped looking out for herself.She is no role model to follow for anyone. But her life story serves up some important lessons on what not to do with serendipity when it comes knocking at your door.