After making some waves late last year for its disquieting nature, Benedict Andrews' harrowing drama Una is finally hitting home entertainment platforms next week and here's my Blu-Ray review of the film.

Any time either Rooney Mara or Ben Mendelsohn appear in a film, there is reason to be excited. Both are might fine actors, undisputedly exceptional at not only what they do but what they choose. For Andrews' Una, the pair come toe-to-toe and they certainly give some truly astounding performances here - as usual. Mara stars our eponymous lead, with the narrative cutting back and forth between her as a bubbly teen and the quieter, more reserved adult Una. When she tracks down a figure from her past, Ray (Mendelsohn), an abusive history is let loose when the pair are confronted with one another and some horrible memories - with Una demanding answers as to why Ray sexually abused her when she was 13.

It's not too hard to figure out that Una is inspired by a play - David Harrower's acclaimed Blackbird, to be precise - given its very small, isolated nature - the characters are few, the locations are simple, the dialogue and conversational scenes drive the film. Yet, this is a story that perhaps benefits from being very stripped down; with few bells and whistles, it means that the story on hand really gets to sink in and linger but, be warned, Una is by no means an easy swallow. This is the kind of film that seeps under your skin and leaves quite the chills. Andrews isn't afraid to really get into Una and Ray's relationship but he also offers no easy answers. Morally, it's a swift move to pinpoint just who is responsible. But the script here - adapted by Harrower himself - is constantly trying to keep things murky, where lines are a little more blurred and empathy is a little more askew.
The characters, whilst neither is developed much more beyond what is necessary for this core dynamic and story, are both troubled souls. Whilst the screenplay never tries to sympathise Ray and is careful in doing so, it explains his situation well enough that there is a lingering feeling of sadness for him. But we feel for Una too. Both are characters living with such torment and deep-rooted pain and it causes for quite an explosive clash and both Mara and Mendelsohn are excellent in their respective roles. The pair have such a twisted, unsettling - given the circumstance - chemistry and both give very reserved, damaged performances here and the dynamic between them is thoroughly riveting and emotional. They bring a lot to these characters and infuse so much emotion and anger and pain into the dialogue to make it hit home.

It's a fascinating film, and this war of two-sides makes it a film that is difficult to watch and constantly frustrating and muddied - purposefully so, though. And director Benedict Andrews' direction is pretty tight, for the most part; the cinematography, too, from Thimios Bakatakis is also stylish and impressive. Sadly, this is far from a perfect film and the cutting of the narrative can make for a very uneven film - a lot of tension feels wasted with some jarring jumping back and forth between timelines - and the film runs out of steam quickly. The first half is fascinating but when the film veers off the Mara-Mendelsohn dialogue, it just drags. The ending, too, just feels all too predictable and... bland? You can't help but want more, given the film does a fairly good job of keeping its audience on their toes up until that point. But, still, Una is some very riveting stuff. It's a difficult and uneven picture, but one to watch just for the central performances from Mara and Mendelsohn alone.


Whilst far from a perfect film, certainly one that is tough given the subject material, Una is a fascinating piece and one to watch for the performances alone.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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