Monday, 10 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - UNA (BENEDICT ANDREWS)


Past trauma taking hold of present decisions - Una is a frank and provocative dissection of the nature and the effects of abuse, its influences upon those involved and, more daringly, its reasons for coming into existence. What becomes of the victim? What becomes of the abuser? And what were the circumstances that led each of them into such a destructive, damaging situation? David Harrower's script is sympathetic enough to accept the irrefutable argument of where to place responsibility, and concurrently makes a case for the abuse victim's subsequent assumption of responsibility begetting a crucial catharsis. It's also intelligent and brave enough to present a moral conundrum at the heart of Una, allowing unflattering tones to settle into its depiction of the victim, and reasonable tones into that of the abuser. Whether or not it condones his dismissive, possibly significant claims that he's not "one of them" only contributes further to the film's intriguing ambiguity. Hard, cold interiors dominate the film's first two thirds, before switching to the more dangerous setting of domesticity. It's here that Rooney Mara's title character must recalibrate her actions and intentions, whilst retaining the defiant assertion of control that has defined her journey to confronting the man who changed her life, and must never again be permitted to. Una is emotionally impenetrable, and Mara is a pro at making unknowable elements of her characters feel completely authentic and understandable. Ben Mendelsohn is also superb, fashioning his role's suspect insistence of the validity of their 'love' and the honour he has somehow acquired since with patient grace. And former theatre director Benedict Andrews opens up the work he once oversaw on the stage with fine cinematic touches, such as a potent appreciation for the effects of space and surroundings on one's emotional state, and the sparing use of music, accentuating the affective power of specific moments.