MOVIE REVIEW – Sandra Bullock stars as an ex-con and former cop killer who is simultaneously trying to rebuild her life and reconnect with her little sister, who was taken into foster care and adopted after her arrest. The story is mysterious, pathos-filled, with intriguing twists and turns, a few harrowing scenes and a severe confrontation with fellow Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis.
The Unforgivable begins on the day Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) is released, having been vindicated while still in prison by her strict parole officer (Rob Morgan). He relentlessly tells her the “10 commandments”, starting with “no drugs, no alcohol, no weapons, no contact with criminals, no contact with the victim’s family”.
“You’ll always be a cop killer”, the officer reminds him. Ruth needs to pull herself together and start her life again.
As for the “victim’s family”, the murdered sheriff has a slightly different take on the matter. One of the sheriff’s sons (Tom Guiry) vows revenge and is desperate to persuade his brother (Will Pullen) to join him.
In another twist, Ruth returns to the “murder house”, her former country home where a pair of lawyers (Viola Davis and Vincent D’Onofrio) have moved in and renovated the house in the process.
Meanwhile, the once-traumatised little brother (Aisling Franciosi) is on anti-anxiety medication but has become a promising college piano soloist. His parents (Richard Thomas and Linda Edmond) never mention his life before the age of five. Only her sister (Emma Nelson) is curious about her, and Katherine doesn’t share her memories, only the strange dreams that keep her in the dark about her past.
Who’s your momma?
The story draws on tried and tested elements, and although there are no big surprises, the film is twisty enough to keep the viewer glued to the small screen. As a determined woman, Sandra Bullock, who has been seen many times before, gives us a taste of the toughness behind those almost teary eyes.
What’s a bit of a dead-end, though, is that Bullock has essentially shaved 20 years off her age to play the jailed older brother rather than the girl’s mother – which would have been more believable. The story tries to make us forget this fact with more dramatic twists and turns and a few slightly forced explanations of Ruth and her little sister’s past and present.
Clichés and surprises
For a genre film, The Unforgivable uses surprisingly unusual story elements. It starts as a film drama and turns into a thriller after a while. It uses some clichés and well-known twists while subverting others.
It also touches on or evokes all sorts of issues and themes – the harsh justice meted out by the police to crimes committed against their own, the horror of adoptive parents when confronted with the blood relationship from their child’s past and its ill effects, the all-too cruel and unequal nature of the ‘system’, which the characters of Davis and D’Onofio quickly remind us of.
At the same time, the film is somewhat let down because it is an adaptation of an existing British series. Also, there is not enough time for the characters and their motivations to be adequately developed in the two hours of the film. It’s a decent film, but unfortunately, despite the outstanding performances of Sandra Bullock and the rest of the cast, it’s no more than that.