Rosario Dawson knows “Unforgettable” is a thriller. The actress plays Julia, a web editor and writer whose fiance (Geoff Stults) has a rather clingy ex-wife, Tessa (Katherine Heigl). Tessa’s none-too-pleased her former husband has a new gal pal, much less one who will be co-parenting their young daughter (Isabella Rice). So Tessa decides to make Julia’s life hell, including stealing her phone, setting up a fake Facebook account and contacting her physically abusive ex-boyfriend, pretending to be her.
But though there’s suspense and scares and, eventually, a big catfight with an assist from a fire poker, Dawson insists everyone involved didn’t treat it as mere entertainment. The characters are more fleshed-out than expected. And it deals sincerely with the pain of divorce, the strain women feel to be perfect and the difficulty of overcoming trauma.
“We tried to make them real people in real situations,” Dawson says. “The stuff that’s happening, while it may be really entertaining onscreen, when that happens in real life, not so much.”
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“Unforgettable” may star women, but Dawson doesn’t think the audience should only be female.
“It’s not just a traditional chick flick, where we’re only making this for women. I love that it’s testing well with men, too,” Dawson tells us. “It’s super lazy when you get caught up in thinking only about niche audiences. We can make a story that everybody can relate to, because we’re being honest.”
Tessa may be obsessive and deranged, but the movie is careful not to paint her as a one-note monster. She’s going through real pain, and so is Julia.
“There’s a common issue these women are going through: this striving for perfection,” Dawson says. “We’re living in a world that is constantly showing us a highlight reel — our pictures with the perfect filters on them. We’re in this dynamic now where people are sharing the worst things about themselves. But it’s just for views, it’s just for attention. We took a chance here, showing that being vulnerable can be a strong thing. If you really want to be strong then you have to look at your ugly side. You have to deal with it.”
Despite all the twists and turns, "Unforgettable” doesn’t cheapen one of its most harrowing elements: its portrait of someone who’s been in an abusive relationship. Julia hasn’t told her new beau about an ex-boyfriend (Simon Kassianides), who used to beat her. When she left the relationship, she tried to hide any trace of her former life. Dawson’s mother used to work a woman’s shelter, and the actress herself has dealt with veterans who’ve returned home from war.
“I’ve heard so many women and men talking about being in an abusive relationship,” explains Dawson. “We were all very sensitive about it, because it meant a lot to show this woman who had been a victim most of her life. But now she’s choosing to be a survivor.”
No matter how wild the ending is, “Unforgettable” never loses track of what it’s really about, deep-down.
“The most important thing is the moment [Julia] finally realizes that she can be honest, that the shame she’s holding onto is not something to be ashamed of,” explains Dawson. “She’s come from a dark place and she’s seen the light. That shows her how much stronger she is.”