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Review | Unforgiven

Despite being a white woman, Sandra Bullock's character feels the pain and contempt for being a freed prisoner, something dark at a time when human rights and social reintegration are discussed


The long Unforgiven (Unforgivable), the latest production of the Netflix, presents a drama about pain, revenge and the attempt at a new beginning that is uncomfortable from the point of view of a person who carries the burden of guilt. It is a work whose narrative is developed by following the character's reconstruction in a society in which forgiveness is for few people. It has a strong plot and a surprising twist. The narrative draws attention due to the protagonism of Sandra Bullock, the message it tries to convey and the inconclusive ending that can generate different opinions.

The feature is directed by Nora Fingscheidt, and the plot follows Bullock's character, Ruth Slater who, after serving 20 years of conviction for a murder, needs to reintegrate into a society that condemns those who have already been incarcerated. Judged by almost everyone around her, she is alone and her only hope of redemption is to find her younger sister, Katie, from whom she was forced to part while in prison.

If you watched the film thinking that the focus is on investigating the events that led to the crime committed by Bullock's character, you're wrong. Here, the proposal is to reflect on how society reintegrates ex-convicts – in the case of women, it is even more difficult -, guilt, revenge and forgiveness. In a peculiar and strange way, the feature has a lame structure, but it can be purposeful and this will be explained later.

Talking about the reinsertion of ex-convicts is not an easy task, but Unforgivable manages to convey this sad reality / Reproduction

Because it is a delicate subject, the feature decides to approach several aspects and each character has its role in the story. From the beginning, the film shows that Ruth Slater committed a murder and now, after 20 years, she is out of jail and has to face a freedom questioned and judged by a society that condemns faster than it forgives – many people believe that the convicts must pay for their crimes. mistakes to the end, without a second chance. Unfortunately, it is a sad reality, as many of the people who are arrested, return to jail due to the lack of social structure of a bankrupt and corrupt system that does not reintegrate these people in a humane way.

The main highlight of the production is the acting of the actress Sandra Bullock who plays a character who clearly carries the burden of a sad and cruel past, as much as his family went through until the moment the gun was fired, deciding his fate. Ruth is a woman who has survived the mistreatment of an incarcerated life, who needs to position herself in society to have some dignity. Following the rules of a person on parole – she manages to be employed in two establishments, a place to live and avoids contact with other ex-detainees.

Something interesting that we can see in her character is that the vanity she had in the scenes before the fateful murder was more present. After her release from prison, she proves to be a person of few words and always on the alert, as you don't know what she might face. The truth is that behind an apathetic, serious, sloppy look, they deliver a woman who had to shut herself up for her safety and believes that giving herself the luxury of something better would be something she didn't deserve, that she couldn't have. But life is not over.

The costume was right in the image that the protagonist transmits on screen / Reproduction

Something that the film succeeds is in making the spectator feel the eyes charged with judgment, the anger of those who find it unfair for a convict to have a second chance, the tension in returning to freedom. In this sense, the feature builds a very real atmosphere and doesn't hide her past, which was once thrown open in the newspapers and, nowadays, anyone can find it on the internet.

In parallel to Ruth Slater's sad and arduous battle, we also see the perspective of the children of the sheriff who was killed by the character. With women's freedom, the brothers seek to take justice into their own hands, but we begin to question the price to pay for this? For, her death or someone close to her will not guarantee the peace that the brothers desire, since everything is uncertain in their own lives. Here we can highlight a negative point that bothers a little. 

One of the brothers takes care of the bedridden mother while the other has already built a family, has a baby and a partner. Initially, this father doesn't want to get involved with revenge or anything like that, but he falls into the pile of his brother who, in turn, is having an affair with his brother's wife... The brother who didn't want revenge discovers the his brother's betrayal with his wife and decides to go after Ruth. The points of this subplot are wrongly connected, as the plot does not return in the extramarital affair, which should not have existed in the long one.

Jon Bernthal is Blake in Unforgivable/Reproduction

Well, on the two-way street, there are those who try to reach out to Ruth, as is the case with Blake (Jon Bernthal), who works alongside her and is divided because of the protagonist's past; the assistant to the conditional Vincent (Rob Morgan) that guides you to do things correctly; and the lawyer John (Vincent D'Onofrio) who brokered a meeting between Ruth and Katherine's adoptive parents. He lives with his children and his wife Liz (Viola Davis) in the old house that once belonged to Ruth, which is why the couple and the protagonist cross paths.

Another negative point is the sisters' relationship. The film is based on flashbacks, which impoverished the plot, as the character Katie was separated from her sister when she was still little and doesn't remember much, but it carries traumas and sequels from this troubled past. As for Ruth, the memories are directly linked to the day of the crime and how this corroborated their separation and, currently, in the attempt to plan this reunion. The character Katie is very much in the background, without much reaction and she would have a lot to be explored and the action itself, we see with the attitudes of the adoptive sister who takes the lead in the situation when discovering the whole truth.

In Unforgiven, the plot twist happens when Ruth confesses a crucial detail from the past to Liz, which makes the film convey two sensations: the first is that it shows a surprising fact, but that it undermines what the plot has built up to this point and opens up to opinions questionables such as: Why has Ruth just told this detail? At the time of the murder, was there no investigation to establish the facts? Is Liz the first person to know? So, this was a twist that could have been rethought in the way it was built and connected in the film.

Viola Davis is Liz in Unforgivable/Reproduction

Something that also bothers is the fact that Ruth and Katie are sisters, they could be mother and daughter, they would be more assertive within the plot. Another doubtful point is that only Liz, who at all times judges Ruth for her past, is the only one who realizes that a piece is missing in this story and questions the protagonist about what really happened on the fateful day of the murder. 

In the final stretch, one of the sheriff's sons kidnaps the wrong sister, believing she is Katie, promising to kill her so that Ruth feels the same pain that he and his brother felt 20 years ago. However, in a conversation with delicate and sensitive speeches about loss, failure, regret and forgiveness, Steve gives up on pulling the trigger and Ruth frees the girl. With the police waiting, they are both caught, but Ruth is released with the help of her parole assistant.

Another incompatible situation is that at this moment, Ruth meets Katie who goes towards her and hugs her, ending the story. But what does this hug mean? A way to say thank you for saving her adoptive sister's life? Does she actually remember Ruth? Did she remember pulling the trigger and killing the sheriff and thanking Ruth for taking the blame? Once again, a string of loosely tied facts. 

Sandra Bullock is Ruth Slater in Unforgivable/Reproduction

Despite all these slips, the most bizarre point is the character John who simply evaporates into a scene of extreme importance. Seriously, they put the lawyer to travel right when he needed to help the protagonist? Strange, poorly designed and at this moment who assumes it is Viola Davis with a sequence that demonstrates her good performance, however, I see this as something forced, because at all times the actress' character was on stand by, that is, I should have given her importance from the beginning.

In Unforgiven we can see the exquisite work in the photograph signed by Guillermo Novarro, who with great delicacy and dexterity focuses on a frontal perspective when capturing the protagonist, in addition to betting on closed shots that reinforce the delivery of Sandra Bullock to her character. The soundtrack lacks despite being beautiful, as it maintains a direction less consistent with what it should be. The task performed by Hans Zimmer and David Fleming was not as assertive as to shine. Because it had a somewhat messy construction and development, the open ending could mean a proposal to debate these issues, not within the plot, but in society, spectators and critics in general. The feature film is nothing like a 9 pm soap opera, and yes, it is a work that deserves to be contemplated by the social service it provides. 

Thunder Wave note
The film is a drama about pain, regret, restart, revenge and forgiveness. It is a plot that addresses an inflexible society for forgiveness, dealing with different points of view about who judges and who suffers the judgment aware of what they did and paid for it. The photography is impeccable, the plot is very relevant, as few works approach the subject with such perfection and the cast is great. The excellent performance of Sandra Bullock that makes the spectator feel the weight of guilt that the protagonist feels from the moment of the crime to the beginning of her life marked by contempt. unforgivable criticism



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