Telluride Review: ‘Una’ Driven by Powerful Performance From Rooney Mara

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2016 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVALBased on the stage play by David Harrower, Australian theater director Benedict Andrews brings “Una” to the big screen. Rooney Mara stars in the titular role as a devastated woman who was sexually abused by her neighbor Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) when she was 13 years old. Years after Ray serves a short sentence, Una finally ends her search to find the man she fell in love with as an adolescent. The film intermingles present day – the day she finds him and surprises him at work – with flashbacks of their budding relationship.una2

Una has unfinished business with her former neighbor. She has come to confront Ray about his disappearance following their sexual encounter, and for taking advantage of her as a child. The event has wrecked her life and destroyed her family. As the two slowly rediscover each other – Una furiously and Ray confusedly – their discussion of the past ranges from heartbreak to passion to regret. However, the regret is not so much about what happened, but is more for the confusion of what happened the night Ray disappeared.

Mara is exceptionally brilliant in the film. Her presence is instantly ferocious, as her huge, bulging eyes and high cheekbones highlight the emotional calamity within. Mara does so much with her face, and is the principal reason to see “Una.” However, the film does leave the audience feeling a bit icky, as it often appears the film forgets who the real victim is, and rather seems to glamorize their sordid affair. It is a hard film to embrace, and often feels like the movie fantasizes about sexual abuse of a minor. In one instance, the discussion between Una and Ray goes into such vivid detail that Ray actually describes the way the 13-year-old climaxed.

I’d seek out the film if you are a big fan of Mara, but otherwise, it is a tough watch that leaves you questioning the intent of the movie in the first place.

“Una” is for sale via WME and West End Films. It will play again in Toronto next week, and London next month. There currently is no scheduled release date or U.S. distribution.

GRADE: (★★½)

Trailer is not yet released. 

  • Luke McGowan

    What a tough film to pull off