Director: Nora Fingscheidt 

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Viola Davis, Emma Nelson, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan, Will Pullen, Tom Guiry, Jon Bernthal 

Genre: Crime drama 

Country / Language: USA, UK, Germany / English 

Duration: 1 hr 54 min 

Release date: December 10, 2021 (India) 

Sandra Bullock is Ruth Slater, a woman recently released from prison on good behaviour. She is said to have murdered an innocent cop. After getting released, she is now trying to get in touch with her younger sister Kate (Aisling Franciosi). The issue now is that the little sister has no solid memories of Ruth and is happy with her new life as a foster daughter. Ruth must now try to get in contact with Kate as well as deal with her new life outside bars in a world which antagonizes former convicts. 

The gritty and sombre drama is directed by German filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt who crashed onto the independent film scene in 2019 with the brilliant ‘System Crasher’. The movie followed a 9 year old girl with extreme tendencies of anger and aggression, and the grown ups assigned to take care of her. The freshface Fingscheidt won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival for this movie, and I suggest everybody check out the electrifying film. 

A similar visual style as ‘System Crasher’ can be seen here in ‘The Unforgivable’. There are moments which see the juxtaposition of young children’s tender, radiant skin with images of brutality and chaos going around them. 

However, ‘The Unforgivable’ lacks the bite which made Fingscheidt’s first movie so fresh and engaging. Nothing shown here feels new as we watch Ruth visit her old home (which is also a crime scene), beat up a bothersome roommate, get turned away from a job, get assaulted by an angry cop supporter, meet a potential love interest, and have a shouting match with the foster parents of her sister. We have all seen such scenes unfold in various crime films and dramas. So there isn’t much new to see here. In fact, ‘The Unforgivable’ feels like an Oscar contender from 2008 due to its dramatic scenes and cinematography. 

Sandra Bullock looks weary and worn down as any ex-convict serving a twenty year sentence should. One must also give credit to the star for willing to be de-glamourized and dusty with disheveled hair as a now impoverished working class woman. Notably, her bruised face, rancid expression and sudden bursts of raging violence remind one of Halle Berry’s performance in another Netflix movie released this year: ‘Bruised’. ‘Bruised’ is another movie – albeit a sports drama – about a hardened, jaded woman going through a burdensome phase in her life who must seek redemption for the past as the past comes to haunt her. This is quite similar to the plot structure of ‘The Unforgivable’. Those who enjoyed the latter can check out ‘Bruised’ which has an engaging soundtrack and some fun action sequences which ‘The Unforgivable’ lacks. 

The more interesting part of the dark-toned ‘The Unforgivable’ is the sequences of the now older sister Kate who is living her life as a foster daughter to the Malcolms. Kate doesn’t quite remember her older sister Ruth nor does she have a clear idea of the murder that took place in their house. All she has are disjointed fragments of hair, skin, embracing, sunrays and screaming. And then bam. A gun going off. Katie is played by Irish actress Aisling Franciosi who gave a stellar, moving performance in 2018’s ‘The Nightingale’. Franciosi unfortunately doesn’t have much to do here as her character does not even attempt to piece back her past nor make attempts to contact her sister. Emily (Emma Nelson), Kate’s new sister, takes up these tasks instead and her actions are what push forward the story of this movie. 

Sandra Bullock’s performance and charismatic screen presence make the movie watchable. The Hollywood star is known to empower even mediocre films with her enigmatic performance such as in ‘Birdbox’ (2018), ‘Our Brand Is Crisis’ (2014) and ’28 Days’ (2000). And she does the same here. Also, people who have not watched a prison film or movies about former convicts attempting to restart their lives will probably find enough material here to stay engaged. 

Other than that, ‘The Unforgivable’ largely fails to push the boundaries of the ex-convict genre and remains largely stale and unseasoned. Even Viola Davis, who is known to move us with her powerful performances in ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, ‘Widows’ and ‘The Help’ is wasted here as her character is mostly side lined to give space to less engaging characters.

‘The Unforgivable’ is now streaming on Netflix.

Also read: Christmas on Netflix: 5 new movies to binge-watch



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