By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★★☆

An unconventional thriller that relies on intense realism and first class source dialogue from the play by David Harrower. Rooney Mara is an unstoppable force.

Set in modern day British suburbia, Una (Rooney Mara) approaches her childhood love interest, and convicted pedophile Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) at his place of work to understand the past tragedy and (try) to get some closure.

Rooney Mara has come a long way since her small part in David Fincher’s The Social Network so long ago. It was Fincher’s second Mara movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that really cemented her place among the stars, earned her an Oscar nomination, and fleshed out that unbeatable performance of rebel outcast Lisbeth Salander. Then there was her performance in Carol which earned her another Oscar nomination… and now there’s Una.

Mara is good at playing the outcast, and Una is no exception. Her performance drips with tragedy, desperation and revenge. She develops Una over the course of the film in such an understandable and humane way. Her character, and this film in general, could have gone in a lot of different directions, especially towards the finale, but rather than descending into madness and sensationalism, Una sustains a feeling of intense disturbia and desperation.

Ruby Stokes, who played the younger version of Una represented in the flashbacks was also a noteworthy addition to the cast, and the on screen chemistry between her and Ray is disturbingly magnetic. The flashbacks were edited appropriately and never become confusing, nor do they ever become mundane. Despite the whole film being quite minimalist, there really are some nail-biting moments because director Benedict Andrews has put such a strong emphasis on dialogue, and in turn also remained faithful to the play.

There’s never too much of anything to distract you from our two main characters here. One subtlety that the film does employ though, is its use of light, especially in the factory. Our characters are constantly walking in and out of the shadows, like the ghosts of their turbulent history together.

An honest and genuine film that deserves your attention. This is going to be a big year for Mara.

Photo: Cinema Vine

 

 

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