David Harrower (Culling Hens) adapts his own critically acclaimed play Blackbird for the big screen. He casts big names and puts first-time film director Benedict Andrews in the driving seat.
Adapting a play to the cinema screen has been done many times before and successfully too. Stage-plays tend to bring a raw emotion, a drama that’s intense and more than we usually see. It’s a shame then that Harrower and Andrews haven’t managed to bring that to Una.
On the face of things Una has a simple premise. When Una, Rooney Mara (Lion, Kubo And The Two Strings), was just 13 years old, she was raped by her neighbour Ray, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, The Dark Knight Rises).
Ray was given four-years in jail for his part but has now moved away and started a new life, working a large warehouse and is married.
Una meanwhile, still hasn’t left the family home, next to Ray’s old house. At the start of the film we see Una in a nightclub, having sex in the toilets, which we deem to inform of us that she has an unhealthy attitude to sexual liaisons.
Now older, she manages to track Ray, now called Pete, down at his new place of work after seeing a photo of him, and his fellow colleagues, announcing the company he works for was merging with another.
Whilst Ray/Pete feels he’s done his time and has now moved on with his life, Una has very different feelings and, as we flash back to the court case and the time before, we see that the two made plans to abscond together, to live a new life.
As a younger pair, the two had to hide and lie, now, as Una has cornered Ray/Pete in his workplace on a day which he needs to spout off some corporate drivel to various workers who may, or may not, be losing their jobs, Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Rogue One) being one of them, the two must do so again. Talking, crying, shouting and hiding as Ray/Pete’s colleagues try to find him.
Ray/Pete attests he’s never done anything like this before, or since and realises he’s made a huge mistake but insists he did love Una, he did mean for them to be together.
Mara, spouting a not bad but generic sounding English accent, gives us an accomplished performance matched at every turn by Mendelsohn. The pair together are enthralling to watch, engaging on levels that make you twist and squirm.
This is when Una is at its most successful, when our two protagonists are facing up to each other, to who they are, to what they’ve done. Sadly, it’s interjected with other elements, such as the ‘who will be fired’ elements, which take us away from this.
Blackbird may well be a great play, but along the way to adapting it for the big screen in Una, things have got a little hazy and what’s left is a flawed film with some great performances.
The Blu-Ray comes with the trailer and interviews with Benedict Andrews and Ben Mendelsohn and is out on the 8th January 2018.