(director: Nora Fingscheidt; screenwriters: Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, Courtenay Miles; cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro; editor: Stephan Bechinger; music: Dave Fleming/Hans Zimmer; cast: Sandra Bullock (Ruth Slater), Rob Morgan (Vincent), Vincent D’Onofrio (John Ingram), Jon Bernthal (Blake), Viola Davis (Liz Ingram), Richard Thomas (Michael Malcolm), Linda Emond (Rachel Malcolm), Aisling Franciosi (Katherine Malcolm), Emma Nelson (Emily Malcolm), Tom Guiry (Keith Whelan), Will Pullen (Steve Whelan), W. Earl Brown (Mac Whelan); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Sandra Bullock, Veronica Ferres, Graham King: Netflix; 2021)
“I believe in the cause the film advocates, I just don’t believe in the film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Unforgivable is flatly done. It’s based on the 2009 British miniseries Unforgiven written by Sally Wainwright. German filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt (“System Crasher”/”Boulevard’s End”) and writers Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz and Courtenay Miles mean well by raising social issues that should be raised even if their film is poorly made and turns into a tedious bore (with way too many flashbacks to endure and too many absurd third act twists not to wince at with exasperation). The filmmaker keeps it as a critique of the American judicial system and question how the system expects criminals to rehabilitate themselves without much help from them and furthermore points out their rights curtailed. But they fail to run with this high-concept and do anything convincing about it. It’s too bad because they hit on something that needs to be aired but isn’t.
It’s set in Seattle.
We soon learn that a beaten-down Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock), a pariah in society for being a cop killer, has served 20 years in jail for brutally killing a sheriff under unexplained circumstances when he tried evicting the family from their farm home in the outskirts of Seattle, and has been paroled. We’re told that Ruth may have killed the sheriff to defend her 5-year-old sister, Katie (Aisling Franciosi, Irish actress). The much younger sis is now a young adult living with her adopted parents (Richard Thomas and Linda Emond).
It takes a suspension of disbelief when it finally discloses how evidence that should have been impossible to miss is missed.
The episodic film strings together a series of chapters where all the characters are one-dimensional. Ruth’s after prison suitor (Jon Bernthal) is a saint; her parole officer is a monster (Rob Morgan); the lawyer (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his wife (Viola Davis), who doesn’t believe in second chances; are unaware they are living in the house where Ruth did the killing; and, the dead sheriff’s two sons (Tom Guiry & Will Pullen) have no forgiveness in their heart for Ruth.
We must swallow that on her release her housing in a halfway house is a bummer (filled with ratty druggie ex-cons) and her carpentry job promised on her parole falls through because the boss has changed his mind. These things might happen, but the way they happened here was too blunt and unconvincing.
I believe in the cause the film advocates, I just don’t believe in the film.
REVIEWED ON 12/6/2021 GRADE: C