In 2018, Sandra Bullock’s leap of faith with the thriller Bird Box paid off to become one of the most-watched films on Netflix. Now, with The Unforgivable, the Oscar-winning actor tries to shoulder, yet again, a drama solely on her own shoulders, but only to serve a second-string moderation of her previous success.
The Unforgivable, directed by Nora Fingscheidt, is an adaptation of British mini-series Unforgiven , and follows the life of Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock), a woman who is trying to navigate life outside prison.
Ruth, who did 20 years in prison for a violent crime, is now trying to reconnect with her sister whom she left behind. She also has to confront the grieving family of the victim of her crime, and her sister’s new foster parents, who believe that Ruth has no remorse for her actions.
For Ruth, however, her life hasn’t moved a day ahead since the day of the crime, not necessarily because of her guilt, but because of what was taken from her. Her past life with her younger sister, who was only five back then, is interspersed throughout the film. The different yet corresponding lives of the Slater sisters, before and after the crime, form the thrust of the narrative.
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The lighting of the film aids to build this before and after timelines; cinematographer Guillermo Navarro fills the flashback scenes of Ruth and her younger sister with bright yellow sunshine, while her present life is cast with sombre hues of cold grey.
- Director: Nora Fingscheidt
- Cast: Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, Richard Thomas, Linda Emond, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan
- Storyline: Released from prison into a society that won’t forgive her, a woman convicted of murder searches for the little sister she was forced to leave behind
- Duration: 114 mins (1h 54 min)
Sandra Bullock looks the part as the angry, frustrated and grieving Ruth Slater. Her hollow eyes; open, unruly hair; and the unmissable dry, shrivelled lips, give the already remarkable actor an added edge. Unfortunately, she does not have much room to play with. The script does not have enough to extract the best out of a seasoned actor, and the storyline, although adept for a thriller and helped by the pensive background music, does not stay to point for too long.
Similarly, the film, despite laying a decent-enough groundwork to explore the life of a prison returnee, does not deliver on that front. The cramped house for parolees in Seattle’s ChinaTown — and its grim and dark interiors that are overpowered by its noisy inmates — introduced in the beginning, is forgotten too soon.
The haplessness in Ruth’s voice when she asks her parole officer, “Am I a convict wherever I go?” or the hurt at having a new friend run out on her, after he finds her truth, are buried before they can be explored fully. It’s a continuing pattern; the plot jumps from one big moment to the next, without giving time for reflection, both for the actors and the viewers.
The ending or the big reveal of the infamous crime too, is a letdown, leaving one to question the seriousness of the plot.
While Bullock is a stunning performer in her own right, the rest of the talented cast is wasted. The brilliant Viola Davis or Rob Morgan do not get enough screen time or any extraordinary scenes that challenge them, which is a disappointment.
Despite this, the thriller still manages to somewhat intrigue; the underlying themes of the sibling bond and the sacrifice made for a loved one, keeps you hooked and look past the minor inconsistencies. There is no denying though, that Sandra Bullock deserved better.
The Unforgivable is currently streaming on Netflix