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Una
United Kingdom/USA/Canada 2016
Directed by Benedict Andrews
Running time 94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars



Synopsis: A young woman, Una (Rooney Mara), unexpectedly arrives at the workplace of an older man, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn), to confront him with their shared past.

Una is Benedict Andrews’s debut feature film he having previous directed a National Theatre Live version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Not that this film strays far from its origins in the play, ‘Blackbird’ by David Harrower who also scripted this screen adaptation.  Although I have not seen that play there is a sense here that in moving to the big screen more has been lost than gained.  

Instead of preserving the form of a confined two-hander, something akin to Polanski’s Venus In Furs (2013) which the stage play apparently was (If only Polanski had directed this!), Benedict has dissipated the potential intensity with a back-story showing us Ray’s Humbert Humbert-like flight with his Lolita, the thirteen year old Una (played by Ruby Stokes). He keeps illustrating Ray and Una’s confrontation in the present with flashbacks to that past.  At least he gets this part of the film right, letting us see Ray’s torment as he pursues his illicit desire to its hopeless fruition.  But too much is made of a sub-plot with Ray’s involvement in a staff-downsizing decision with people searching for him in the empty, sterile confines of the warehouse where he is a manager.  It appears to have nothing to do with the main story but is rather some convoluted way of constructing a narrative which itself culminates unsatisfactorily with a party at Ray’s home where he now lives rehabilitated life under a new name.

Mara and Mendelsohn work well together, she assuming an English accent, he not at all, but surprisingly Harrower often burdens them with awkwardly literary dialogue.  This should have been corruscating stuff examining the abuser-victim relationship with emotion, logic and insight but instead it puddles along without developing any heat, occasionally striking a spark before sputtering out in an atmosphere of unrelieved lugubriosity and with little sense of purpose..Given Benedict’s first-hand experience with Williams' classic statement of male sexuality this is a considerable disappointment.

 

 

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