Review: The Unforgivable with Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable

The Unforgivable is a remake of a 3 part British series called Unforgiven. The original was written by Sally Wainwright. I really liked the original. I set out to watch this adaptation as a stand alone film and not compare it to the earlier series. The film is on Netflix.

The Unforgivable turned out to be hard to watch without making comparisons. Overall I think the adaptation worked. It is a successful film. It tells a story that retains the bones of the original. The original series was longer, more detailed, and better. But don’t let that stop you from watching this version.

Nora Fingscheidt directed the film. It was Americanized and set in Washington state. A few points about American parole systems, racial justice in the U.S. and the trauma of prison on a person’s psyche were added. Other bits were left out, such as discussions about redemption. Much of the character development was left out, especially among the secondary characters. This made big changes in how the third act reached its conclusion.

Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable
Sandra Bullock played Ruth as grim, unsmiling, and scarred by prison.

Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) came out of 20 years in prison wanting only to find her younger sister. She’d served time for killing a cop who was trying to evict Ruth and her sister Katie (Aisling Franciosi) from their farmhouse. In prison, she’d written daily letters to Katie, which Katie didn’t know about.

Katie’s adoptive parents, Michael (Richard Thomas) and Rachel (Linda Emond) had told her nothing about her life before they adopted her or about her sister in prison. They convinced themselves she had no memories of that time. They had another adopted daughter, Emily (Emma Nelson), who became instrumental in the exciting climax to the story.

Ruth had no way to find Katie. One day she went back to the farmhouse where it had happened. The couple living there now were Liz (a ridiculously underused Viola Davis) and John (Vincent D’Onofrio). They talked to her a bit. Ruth ask John, a lawyer, to help her locate Katie.

He located Katie, but her parents, Michael and Rachel, didn’t want Ruth to see her or talk to her.

Blake (Jon Bernthal) from the fish packing place where Ruth worked tried to help Ruth. He liked her. Yet he did something that hurt her.

The biggest complication was the two sons of the sheriff killed all those years ago in the farmhouse: Steve (Will Pullen) and Keith (Thomas Guiry). They didn’t think 20 years in prison was enough justice for their father’s death. They wanted revenge.

All those threads came together in a dangerous third act as Ruth was about to sneak her first look at grown up Katie.

The film relied heavily on flashbacks from Ruth and Katie as a way of showing their memories and what really happened in the farmhouse shooting. The flashbacks felt overdone and repetitive, but there really wasn’t a better way to fill in those details.

The Unforgivable felt gritty and grimy and totally American. Sandra Bullock was hard and tough here. She was a carpenter at home with power tools. In one powerful scene, her rage and frustration took hold of her and she physically destroyed a room she was building. Kicking holes in sheet rock is its own kind of therapy. The ending of the film leaves so many questions unanswered, one of them being the thought of therapy for both Ruth and Katie. What will happen with these two sisters? We don’t know.

Have you seen both or either version? Which did you like better?

2 thoughts on “Review: The Unforgivable with Sandra Bullock”

  1. saw both versions – am partial to the Brit one since I really like Sally Wainwrights style and am a fan of Suranne Jones. all in all, thought it was very good.

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