[Movie] The Unforgivable review – Sandra Bullock’s performance shines a light on a weak script

This review of the Netflix film The Unforgivable does not contain spoilers.

While not every movie has to be a cinematic piece of art, some genre films can’t help themselves from being an example of a rudderless existence. The Unforgivable is that type of movie. A movie with a more thoughtful script would have been a character study reflecting on the choices made, where they fit in the world now, and how they plan to reclaim their lives. That’s what Ruth (Sandra Bullock) tries to do while searching for her sister she lost custody of when she went to prison for killing a police officer twenty years prior. But no. That’s not what Hollywood does. Film producers can’t stop tinkering. By the end of Sandra Bullock’s first film in three years, you’ll be telling yourself we can’t have nice things.

Why will you feel this way? Well, because The Unforgivable builds a nice little character study by the end of its second act. Ruth is having trouble adjusting to the outside. She is fighting off women stealing her belongings in a halfway house. She continues to search for her sister, even though her parole officer (played by Rob Morgan) tells her to stay away. The film’s script is pretty interesting the way others react to Ruth’s backstory that she is out of prison for killing a police officer (played by W. Earl Brown). All of a sudden, jobs are not there that were promised. A potential love interest (Jon Bernthal, sporting the best mustache since Tom Selleck) takes a step back. She is even attacked by a fellow employee whose father was a cop.

But, again, writers do what writers do because they need to eat. The only way they can do that is to create a needless twist that is so jaw-droppingly bad it defies logic. And the team behind it isn’t bad, far from it. Mindhunter’s Courtenay Miles, Insomnia’s Hillary Seitz, and Peter Craig of The Town fame had a hand in it. There are just too many scribes involved here that went through too many rewrites based on Sally Wainwright’s British series. The result is asking the audience to believe in too many coincidences that advance Bullock’s Ruth character. Hey, did you know Ruth’s old house is now owned by a corporate lawyer (Vincent D’Onofrio) who can help her locate her sister even though records are sealed? Oh, and he does it in a few days? He’s that good.

Director Nora Fingscheidt’s film has its flaws, as most do, and the ones I described above are often tolerated. They work well with a subplot that involves the sons of the murdered officer (Tom Guiry and Will Pullen) who want to seek revenge. That leaves Fingscheidt’s film in limbo that must go very dark or less a thriller, but more of a contemplative reflection on closure. But this brings us back to the needless twist. Something ridiculous and obnoxious. It wouldn’t work in real life, nor would the evidence suggest otherwise (for more detailed spoilers, please read my ending explained feature). Everything the movie worked up to ended up not working because it abandons all its moral complexity. This fails a Bullock performance that’s a good one and shines a light on how weak the script is.

That’s why The Unforgivable is just that, in every way.

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