Cinequest: UNA



The psychological suspense movie Una revolves around two twisted people, one of whom has been damaged by trauma.  Here’s what the audience can be confident really happened: at age 14, Una (Rooney Mara) was seduced by a much older man, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn); she became infatuated with Ray and they carried on a sexual relationship for three months until he was caught and imprisoned for four years.  Upon leaving prison, he changed his name and started a new life.  It’s now fifteen years after the original crime and Una has tracked him down.

We can tell that Una is obsessed with Ray.  What we don’t know is whether Una is seeking vengeance or whether she is in love with him – or both.  She’s so messed up that even she may not know.

Lolita was a novel with a famously unreliable narrator.  Una presents us with TWO unreliable narrators.  Almost every statement made by Ray COULD be true, but probably isn’t.  He was in love with her, he came back for her, she was his only underage lover, he’s not “one of them”, he’s told his wife about his past – we just can’t know for sure.  Ben Mendelsohn delivers a performance that tries to conceal whatever Ray is thinking and feeling but allows his desperation to leak out.

The excellent actor Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, The Reluctant Terrorist) is very good as Ray’s work buddy, who must deal with one totally unforeseeable surprise after another.

Una really relies on Rooney Mara to portray a wholly unpredictable character in every scene, and she succeeds in carrying the movie.  Mara’s face is particularly well-suited when she plays a haunting and/or haunted character, and it serves her well here.

I watched Una at Cinequest, where it was a Spotlight Film.  Its theatrical release is expected later this year.


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