Sydney Film Festival preview: Una

Emotionally raw, beautifully acted and unavoidably controversial, Una lingers long after the credits roll.


Name: Una

Director: Benedict Andrews

SFF Screenings: Thursday, June 15, 8.35pm @ Hayden Orpheum Cremorne

Synopsis: Based on David Harrower’s stage play Blackbird, Una explores the aftermath of sexual abuse between a 13-year-old girl, Una, and an adult neighbour, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn). Fifteen years after the incident, the now adult Una (Rooney Mara) tracks down Ray at his place of work, threatening to upend the new life he has crafted around him.

Should I see it? Absolutely, though it is not for the faint of heart. Una deals with a complex subject, no doubt, but it does so with grace, intelligence and mesmerising emotional power. Paedophilia is an inherently inflaming subject and there will be strong visceral reactions to this impressive two-hander.

When we meet adult Una, she’s drifting through a sweaty, pulsing nightclub, cruising for random sex. Then, back in her bedroom, we find her secretly looking at a photo of a man, smiling, surrounded by work colleagues. We learn that this man is Ray, who lived next door to Una and her family and was a close friend of her father’s. Una, who still lives in the same home with her mother Andrea (Tara Fitzgerald), uses an alibi and drives to Ray’s work place. She finds a man who has changed his name and seemingly buried the past, maintaining his very dark secret. Una intends to remind him of what he did to her and make him confront the hurt that she has been unable to move past.

Mendelsohn and Mara’s performances are utterly gripping. Mara’s emotionally raw and layered portrayal of the multi-faceted Una is brave and devastating – both actors deserve to be recognised come awards season. Riz Ahmed, star of the brilliant HBO series The Night Of, is again impressive.

Theatre guru Benedict Andrews is gentle in his approach to this debut directorial effort, navigating treacherous emotional territory and artfully using off-camera implication to depict Ray’s horrible acts. His simple camera work allows the performances room to breathe.

Una is so far one of the year’s finest movies.




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