Indie Gems: Una

I need answers, but I don't know the question.

When Una (Rooney Mara) was 13, she ran off with her adult neighbor, Ray. (Ben Mendelsohn) After their relationship turned sexual, he abandoned her, then spent a short amount of time in prison for what he had done. He got a new name, a new job, and a new life. Una didn't. And 15 years later she still has questions and feelings and she finally gets to a point where she tracks him down and confronts him.

Una brings in an interesting and little talked about voice to the sexual abuse conversation. What happens when the victim still has feelings for their abuser? What happens when they aren't allowed to move on? And how should we look at those abusers after they have been "rehabilitated?" We all want to think that Una went to therapy, came to terms with what happened to hear and was allowed to move on, but she wasn't. Her parents kept her in the same town, and the same house. Like she says to Ray at one point in the film "You got to change your name. I had to keep mine." It's so unfair for her to still be in this position. Una herself doesn't seem to know what exactly she wants from Ray. An apology or an acknowledgement of her feelings. That felt very real to me. She just wanted to talk to him about what happened. There's a flashback of his trial earlier on where she asks the police officer to give him a message from her. Now she's living out her message.

Mara is excellent here. Una is understandably very melancholy and Mara plays those types of characters well. She also tackles an English accent well. I felt like she was actually from England. She didn't put on the "Nowhere, United Kingdom" accent that many do. Mendelsohn has a hard job as well. He has to humanize a sexual predator and make us wonder if he really did feel terrible for what he had did and moved on from it. Riz Ahmed also has a supporting role as Scott, Ray's coworker whom Una meets, which was a surprise to me. I didn't realize he was in this. I had only heard of this movie after Alex talked about how much he loves Mara's performance in it. 

The film is based on a play called Blackbird, and you can tell by the set pieces it wasn't originally intended for cinema. I think the director did a great job of making it more cinematic by including flashbacks of Una when she was younger with Ray. And he does it without actually showing any sexual acts, which I was thankful for. The film does flounder towards the end. Like its not sure what to do with itself. Or maybe that was intended. Where do you go from there?

Grade: A-

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "Does she know?" - Una (Rooney Mara)


  1. I do want to see this as I like Rooney Mara a lot as she is someone that always makes interesting choices.

  2. This sounds like an excellent film or at least the story does. I don't think the men feel remorse to be honest because they are geared to look at young things in that way. We are not things by any means but it is how they look at the girls. Charlie Chaplin was guilty of this, Errol Flynn and, of course, roman Polanski and Woody Allen. My friend growing up was 12 when she needed an abortion from some guy who was 22 or 23 maybe older. My friend was desperate for attention and would laugh with the boys and go into the back seat of cars with the guys because she thought it was flattering to be shown this attention not realizing what they really wanted. In fact, when she was 14 she ran away from home with a guy who was 27! She was brought back home more than once but the day after her 16th birthday, she was legal and she left. Thankfully, she finally left the bum, met someone good, got her nursing license and is a grandmother now ( I still think I am 25). Girls will dress up and put make up on to look much older and I think attention is what they crave because they are not getting what they truly need at home. Oh boy...I do go on but I hope there will be more films that touch on this delicate subject other than Lolita

    1. I think you'd probably like this then. It's definitely a different approach. I've never seen Lolita, just clips here and there.

  3. I'm so glad you saw this and reviewed it. (Thanks for the shout out by the way!) I agree fully with your review. It was clearly meant to be staged, and some things don't translate well to film. But overall, I liked that the film posed some very serious questions about the lifelong effects of abuse.

    Completely agree with your assessment of the ending. At first I thought the movie didn't know where to go, and then I realized, "Does Una herself know where to go?" Where do you go from there, indeed.

    1. Exactly. It felt deliberate in its aimlessness if that makes sense. Thank you for talking about it! I'm not sure if would've been on my radar otherwise. :)


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