Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: 2021
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
My Rating: 4/5
Letterboxd Rating: 3.1/5
Letterboxd Summary: A woman is released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime and re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past.
This review contains light spoilers for The Unforgivable
The Unforgivable is a drama in which Ruth Slader, played by Sandra Bullock, is released from prison after serving a 20 year sentence for killing a police officer. We relive the day she was arrested through a series of flashbacks that come to us as the movie goes on, revealing piece by piece at a time. In essence, Ruth was being evicted from the house where she lived with her little sister, Katie. The police threatened to come in and drag them out, and Ruth said that if anyone attempted to come inside, she would shoot them. The policeman came inside, and she made good on her promise.
Once Ruth gets out of prison, she attempts to reconnect with Katie, who has been raised by an adopted family that Ruth knows nothing about. Katie doesn’t know about Ruth, since she was only 5 years old, and her family doesn’t tell her anything. Katie suffers from some form of PTSD or a related illness, and is plagued by half remembered visions and sleepless nights. One thing that the film did incredibly well was give Katie a sister who was always on her side. Even as her parents secretly debated and argued about whether Ruth should be allowed to contact her sister, Katie was there confiding in her adopted sister about going off her medications and having flashbacks. This relationship made Katie feel like a real human and brought warmth into an otherwise dark story.
Ruth struggles to get a job, keep emotionally calm, and find a lawyer that can help her find her sister. She ends up meeting a lawyer who can help her. His wife is played by Viola Davis, and the few scenes containing both Davis and Bullock were some of the films best. They got to show off their range as angry women screaming at each other and trying to protect their own families, and both truly shined. Was it a fair fight? Absolutely not. Davis is a confident woman who knows how to protect her family and she’s going to achieve that. Meanwhile, Bullock is a crumbling women who spent half of her life in prison, and is a mere shell of the person she used to be. But the emotion works for me. I felt Bullock’s pain; if you aren’t the person to feel emotion from a person showing no emotion, then I don’t think this film will work for you.
To further complicate matters for Ruth, the children of the murdered cop are grown men with their own messed up lives who are out for vengeance. They’re determined to make Ruth suffer in the same way that they did, and this leads to some dramatic stalking and culminating in a final life or death action scene.
I can’t say much more because I don’t want to give away any spoilers on how the entire plot progresses, but I can say that if you take a guess at what one of the twists might be, you’re probably right. This is the type of film that I enjoyed watching in the moment, and the more I write about it or think critically about the plot, the worse it gets.
The only aspect of this film that truly let me down while watching it was the final 30 seconds. Bullock gave us a great performance, and then right at the end just… didn’t. I wanted more from her there, and as it ended it felt extremely unfinished. I was left feeling like we just watched 111 hours where we were rooting for Bullock, and in the end she didn’t change her emotions at all, even though her position relative to her goal changed dramatically.
I wouldn’t say this is a must watch movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was pretty solid and I enjoyed watching it while it was on my TV. Bullock’s acting and the few scenes containing Viola Davis were most certainly the highlights that made the rest of it bearable.