Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal
Directed By Nora Finkshite
Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description?: Yes
The Plot: Sandra Bullock plays a woman recently released from prison after serving 20 years, and attempts to rejoin a society that overwhelmingly makes it a seemingly impossible task. The film also explores the victim’s surviving family, and their reaction to her getting released on parole. The film takes these two stories already deeply intertwined, and twists them further.
What Works: I know Netflix can’t offer every single one of their exclusive titles an Oscar qualifying run, but it might have been interesting to see Sandra Bullock and her potential position in this race. After all, I did just watch an equally dark film centered around a complicated protagonist, that will probably land its lead a nomination. Maybe this is the year for deeply flawed female leads?
I mean, I’d be lying if I tried to ignore her performance here as something typical of your average Netflix original lacking a theatrical release. Sandra Bullock is quite good here, and unlike The Lost Daughter, her supporting cast is given time to explore who they are apart from her, which adds another layer of richness to the story.
Because we become invested in this world around her, we are more fully invested in Bullock’s character, and when the world pushes her back down, despite her crime being unforgivable, we still feel some level of sympathy. Like, perhaps this character isn’t a complete waste, and might be able to contribute to society if we let her.
But, that’s where the films title comes into play rather well. While I felt The Lost Daughter wasn’t as clever as it thought it was for a title, The Unforgivable works across multiple levels here. There is a foreboding sense that the film is barreling in a direction that would indeed be….unforgivable.
What Doesn’t: If I’m being honest, when I see someone like Viola Davis given such a bullshit role, I get angry. Give that woman the opportunity to show us why you brought her into this film. Give her a character worthy of casting Viola Davis. She’s a queen, and should be treated as such. Her role here, could have been anyone. Literally. you. You reading this, you could have swapped in for Viola Davis, that’s how trivial her role really is.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty straight forward film. Sometimes, Bullock’s performance can feel too understated, as the film tries to put her in “keep her head down’ mode. They want you to believe that her character is capable of your compassion, and for the most part, it works. But at some points, it just makes her character come off as weak, or naive.
The second main storyline involving the brothers, which I feel like I can’t really talk about without spoiling anything, works, despite that neither brother is a strong actor. They contribute a lot to the film, yet I would say that their acting kept me always at arms length from really appreciating the potential of their storyline. Not a whole lot was done in the early stages to give either brother a personality, rather we were given motive and opportunity.
The Blind Perspective: This is sufficient audio description. If I had one complaint, it would be that the reader was trying so hard to read everything without any ounce of reaction or enthusiasm, which made it a more monotonous description than it needed to be. Though, I was able to follow the film.
Final thoughts: The Unforgivable might just be another Netflix drop, but it really should have been afforded an Oscar qualifying run to see how Bullock would have impacted the race. The film isn’t great, but it is good enough that she potentially could have sustained her way into a Best Actress nomination. Again, like the last film I reviewed, The Unforgivable is largely dependent around the performance of its lead actress, asking the audience to commit to a fractured protagonist and become invested. the only difference in what makes this film work more than the other, is a choice to invest even slightly inn the supporting cast. When it chooses to do that, it fully rounds out the film, taking some of the weight off of Bullock, and getting you more ready for a gut punch ending.
Final Grade: B-