THE UNFORGIVABLE (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: Released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime, Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. Facing severe judgment from the place she once called home, her only hope for redemption is finding the estranged younger sister she was forced to leave behind.
This is one dramatic movie that features another compelling performance from Oscar winner Sandra Bullock. In addition to the surprise casting of Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Bernthal as good guys, there is nothing memorable or special about The Unforgivable.
Adapted from a 2009 British mini-series, Bullock plays Ruth Slater, a woman who has just been released from prison after 20 years for killing a local sheriff. Recommended by her parole officer Vincent (Rob Morgan) to work as a fishmonger, Slater lives life under the radar staying in a halfway house in Chinatown and doing carpentry works for a charity. Her only hope in life is to reconnect with her long-lost sister, Katherine (Aisling Franciosi). But Slater is not alone, the brothers of the slain sheriff is out looking for revenge, tracking her whereabouts and waiting for the chance to strike.
Besides that, there is a pro-bono lawyer, John (D’Onofrio) who offers to help Slater in communicating with Katherine’s foster parents, John’s overly zealous wife, Liz (Viola Davis) and Slater’s co-worker, Blake (Bernthal) who carries a torch for her that are thrown into the narrative making the already long drama extremely slow paced.
Despite the A-list casting, much of the main actors are relegated to the background hardly contributing anything significant to the end product. Vincent D’Onofrio and Viola Davis who plays husband-and-wife certainly deserves more than merely appearing in a few select scenes. Blake certainly is another interesting character with hints of a colourful crime history although he is very much forgotten in the last act. Then there is the revenge subplot that boasts some unexpected twist and turn but the payoff turned out to be more ironic than the emotional punch you desire.
Most of the time, it seems it’s just Bullock doing her best to pull off a performance as an ex-con. Indeed, she is fantastic and almost unrecognizable from the get go. Her character is a tragic one. Ruth Slater spent the first part of her life protecting her little sister from the brutality of the world only to have her only kin being erased from her life. The woman is lonely and desperate, she certainly deserved more except the system this society is built on is restraining her from doing so.
None of the numerous subplots actually matter, the only thing the script got it right is Bullock’s character. German director and screenwriter Nora Fingscheidt offers audiences a layered drama that is saved solely by her main leading actress. The plotting is clunky and contrived at times with lots of distracting flashbacks. Predictable might be an easier word to describe The Unforgivable. Still, you probably remember Ruth Slater’s pain and anguish after the credits rolled. On the other hand, we doubt we are expecting Miss Congeniality 3 anytime soon.
Review by Linus Tee