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Una (2016)

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A woman confronts an older man, her former neighbour, to find out why he abandoned her after they had a sexual relationship.

Director:

Benedict Andrews

Writer:

David Harrower (based on his play "Blackbird")
3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ruby Stokes Ruby Stokes ... Young Una
Rooney Mara ... Una
David Shields ... Man in Nightclub
Ben Mendelsohn ... Ray
Tara Fitzgerald ... Andrea
Madeleine Brolly Madeleine Brolly ... Courtroom Clerk
Richard Cunningham ... Prosecutor
Gary Finnerty Gary Finnerty ... Truck Driver
Riz Ahmed ... Scott
Maciej Krupianik Maciej Krupianik ... Foreman
Mandy Surridge Mandy Surridge ... Picnic Mum
Xanthe Gibson Xanthe Gibson ... Leah
Ciarán McMenamin ... John
Katie Money Katie Money ... Gemma
Poppy Corby-Tuech ... Poppy
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Storyline

When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at her much-older former lover's workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of their dark past threaten to unravel his new life. What follows is an emotional and unflinching excavation of inappropriate love, with shattering consequences.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Absence Makes the Hurt Grow Stronger. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Canada | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 September 2017 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Blackbird See more »

Filming Locations:

Camberley, Surrey, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It is based on the play Blackbird by David Harrower. See more »

Quotes

Una: I don't know anything about you except you abused me.
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Soundtracks

Down by the Water
Written & Performed by PJ Harvey
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User Reviews

 
The assault on innocence and the assault on childhood are one
20 November 2017 | by howard.schumannSee all my reviews

In Una, the powerful screen adaptation of David Harrower's play "Blackbird" about the sexual abuse of a thirteen-year-old girl, Australian director Benedict Andrews does what has become increasingly uncommon in modern cinema – he makes us think. While it may be uncomfortable to look outside of the reassuring categories of victim and victimizer, Andrews asks us to look at his characters not as symbols but as damaged human beings who are seeking to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and re-mold them into a coherent and functioning whole.

Rooney Mara ("Song to Song") is impeccable as Una, a 28-year-old woman who still has confused feelings about Ray (Ben Mendelsohn, "Slow West"), the neighbor she had an affair with when she was thirteen, but who abandoned her after promising to take her away with him. Written by David Harrower and backed by an effective score by Jed Kurzel ("The Babadook"), the film does not attempt to justify Ray's actions, making it clear that Una was clearly below the age of consent and that Ray should have known that what he was doing was wrong.

In numerous inter-cutting flashbacks, Andrews shows the events that led us to the present day. The film opens as the teenage Una is sitting quietly under a tree near her home. As remarkably performed by newcomer Ruby Stokes, Una is a bright and articulate teenager who genuinely believes she is in love with Ray, a neighbor and friend of her father. The sexual act is not shown, only the emotional consequences of the thwarted three-month relationship that leaves Una with unanswered questions. The somber atmosphere is suddenly broken with the disorienting thump of rock music amidst a sea of strobe lights as the older Una wends her way through a crowded sleazy nightclub.

When she has rough sex in the bathroom with her face pressed against the bathroom mirror, we sense her rootlessness and troubled life. When she discovers Ray's picture in a trade magazine, she decides to confront him at the warehouse where he is a mid-level manager. Other than some form of closure, it is unclear exactly what she expects from the meeting. When they finally meet and immediately recognize each other, Ray, who is now married and has changed his name to Pete, has no desire to relive the past, a history that has been hidden from his family and co-workers. He tells her that he has done his time and wants to be left alone. "This is my life. I had to fight for this!" he exclaims.

Una responds with barely concealed rage, telling him that her wound is one that will never heal and that he has only lost four years while she has had to pay dearly during the last fifteen years. Under Andrews' direction, Ray is sympathetic, however, and is particularly compelling in pushing back against her accusations, making it clear that he "was never one of "them," though, to his fellow inmates in prison where he served four years for statutory rape, it was apparently too subtle a distinction. To further the chaotic scene, some employees are being laid off and Ray is called on to deliver some clichés about going onward and upward but is too emotionally upset to continue.

Uncomfortable around his fellow employees, Ray and Una move around the cavernous building trying to find a hiding place to continue their painful recollections and recriminations which they do with increasing intensity. Their conversation runs the gamut from violent antagonism to tenderness. At one point, it is unclear if Una wants to kill him or make love to him. One of those looking for Ray is his foreman, Scott (Riz Ahmed, "Jason Bourne") who is used by Una afterwards to insinuate herself into Ray's home life.

As the focus is evenly balanced between Ray and Una, we are left floating in a sea of ambiguity which can only be resolved by the perspective of the viewer. Although Ray claims that he does not "do these things" on a regular basis, and that he loved Una for who she was and never considered her as a "target," the fact that the film shows a scene of Ray's stepdaughter going into his bedroom (innocently looking enough) perhaps provides a hint that his denials should be taken with a grain of salt.

Una is a complex drama that will not appeal to everyone but whose strength does not lie in its cultural or political agenda but in its art. Una explores, in Israeli author Aharon Applefeld's words, "the darkest places of human behavior to show that even there…humanity and love can overcome cruelty and brutality." For Una, however, there is no escape from the disappointment and humiliation of a young child and there can be no closure. The assault on innocence and the assault on childhood are one and can only be transformed by a world touched by the possibility of grace.


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