Review by Camden Ferrell
The Unforgivable is a new drama that is based on the British mini-series Unforgiven. It features an all-star cast and is directed by German director Nora Fingscheidt. Despite all of the talent on and off screen, this movie fails to be gripping and seems to suffer a crisis of identity.
Ruth is a woman who has just been released from prison after serving for a violent crime. Upon her release, she must get readjusted to society and search for her young sister who has since been adopted and forgotten Ruth. This is an interesting premise that has a lot of promise for exploring different themes while delivering captivating drama.
The script was written by Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, Courtenay Miles, each of whom have experience writing and working on acclaimed films and series. However, this effort is tepid more often than not. Being based on a three-episode miniseries, the movie can’t but feel bloated. There are certainly some plot lines and scenes that are fine in the context of a series but should have been cut from a movie that has under two hours to tell its story.
The movie is full of dialogue that is neither memorable nor unforgivable. It’s as standard as drama dialogue gets. In addition to this, the script along with Fingscheidt’s direction can’t ever agree on what the film is. It jumps between a redemption story, a legal drama, and a thriller, and it doesn’t really excel at any of them. The movie could have benefited from a more consistent tone to connect its narrative more cohesively.
The acting is simultaneously the best and most disappointing part of the film. Sandra Bullock leads the film as Ruth, and while she gives a decent performance, it is far from her best. The film also stars and underutilizes Jon Bernthal and Vincent D’Onofrio. I also want to point out the missed opportunity that is Viola Davis’ character. She doesn’t have much to do in the film, but Davis is one of this generation’s bests, and it’s a shame to see her misused in a film like this.
The film also doesn’t feel unique or impressive on a superficial level either. Again, this is disappointing considering the talent working on the film. The cinematography was done by Oscar-winner Guillermo Navarro, and this movie feels as generic as it comes. This, paired with the same nondescript overly emotional score, do nothing to supplement the already lackluster story and execution beneath the film’s surface.
Ultimately, this film has all the right ingredients for a great drama, but it doesn’t know what to do with all of its moving pieces. It should have focused more on the challenges of felons to readjust to a society both economically and personally. However, the movie opts to juggle a handful of storylines and not properly develop them each as they should.
The Unforgivable is a forgettable drama that will go down as a failed showcase for Bullock. It feels undercooked and tries to stuff too much into such a short time. It might have been intended to be Oscar-bait, but I don’t think it’ll succeed in catching any on its hook.
The Unforgivable is in select theaters November 24 and on Netflix December 10.