Director Benedict Andrews’ Una is a drama that reveals its characters and narrative in an unravelling and competent manner. The film may veer towards the melodramatic, yet it excels in other ways.
Una, a young woman, travels to a warehouse to confront a man who used to be her neighbour. She wants to know what drove him to seek a relationship with her when she was just thirteen years old…
Written by David Harrower, based on his play Blackbird, Una is a drama about a difficult subject. The film tackles the area of paedophilia from the premise of a victim confronting her attacker many years after the event. The film features several flashbacks as the two main characters recollect past events.
The strength of Una is in the relaying of psychological effects of trauma. Protagonist Una feels a multitude of emotions. Given the content of the flashbacks, as well as Peter’s words, it is easy to see why what happened in her childhood has had such an effect later in life. Uncomfortable viewing at times, the film often compels. Nevertheless, it comes undone in the second half. The subplot seemingly intends to give more tension to the main interaction, yet this feels like an unnecessary addition.
Ben Mendelssohn gives a strong performance in a challenging role. Rooney Mara is also good, despite an uneven accent. Riz Ahmed is underused; his talents are not stretched in this minor role. Although the film breaks out of its space for the final third, the film does not depart majorly from its stage origins. The moving around in the warehouse may have been an attempt at differentiating from the play, yet tension may have been greater if this device had been employed less.
The final sequence adds friction certainly, however it heightens the disturbed aspect of protagonist. As a result, it feels like it cheapens a serious subject. Una is an engaging examination of a troubling relationship. The film it at its best when it underplays the theatrics.