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'Una' is uncomfortable, gripping and somehow makes you care about a pedophile

Ben Mendelsohn and Rooney Mara are titanic in Benedict Andrews’ drama
Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn
[Photo: Thunderbird Releasing]

“Una”

Director: Benedict Andrews

Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Rooney Mara, Riz Ahmed, Ruby Stokes, Tara Fitzgerald, Natasha Little, Tobias Menzies

Rating: R

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4 (Out Of 5) Globes

Plot: After spotting a picture of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) in the newspaper, Una (Rooney Mara) goes to his place of work to confront him. Years earlier, when he was a middle-aged man and she was a 13-year-old girl, Ray had sex with her, a crime he went to prison for. Ray is immediately aware that Una’s presence could destroy the life he has rebuilt following his arrest and incarceration. But Una is just intent on finding out why Ray abandoned her all those years ago, when they were on the cusp of leaving England for the life that he had promised.

Review: “Una” is an uncomfortable, at times deeply unpleasant, but always thoroughly captivating experience. It swings your allegiance from one-side to the other, and you constantly find yourself surprised and unsettled by its unravelling narrative and the revelations of its backstory. While director Benedict Andrews’ control, use of mise-en-scene, and the atmosphere he builds are all pitch perfect, you’re really able to become so deeply invested in “Una” because of the beguiling performances from its leading pair of Ben Mendelsohn and Rooney Mara. A toned-down Mendelsohn almost seduces you onto his side, while at the same time still teasing a darker undercurrent. But even he can’t quite match Mara, who plays with the silences, and uses the slightest of facial movements and grimaces to make you feel sympathetic and then, in a heartbeat, instantly wary of her. Mara is so titanic as Una that it’s probably her best performance to date. But it is the balanced, character-driven and humanistic handling of the material that allows “Una” to adapt from the theatre to film seamlessly, while also provoking a thousand different arguments in the process.