Sandra Bullock, Jon Bernthal, Viola Davis and Vincet D’Onofrio star in The Unforgivable, a feature-length adaptation of the UK BAFTA-nominated miniseries Unforgiven. Ruth (Bullock) has been released for prison after killing a police officer 20 years ago. All she wants to do now is reunite with her younger sister (Aisling Franciosi), who’s since been adopted, and get her life back on track. Word of Ruth’s release has also reached the victim’s family and the sister’s adopted parents, who are each affected differently by the news. From here The Unforgivable explores the immediate aftermath of the ensuing drama as it raises complex questions about prejudice towards ex-convicts.
Aside from changing the setting from Yorkshire to Seattle, the main plot beats of the Netflix adaptation largely remain the same as the series. The all-star ensemble cast do a superb job of heightening the personal stakes at play. Emotions run high in each of the interweaving plot threads, but it’s Bullock who steals the spotlight. The Oscar-winning actor is spectacular, as always, in the leading role. The script wisely takes the show-and-don’t-tell approach with its narrative, and everything viewers need to know about Ruth’s inner turmoil is etched in every wary glance or pained expression Bullock gives. There isn’t a bad performance among the supporting cast either, though none of the other actors are given the same opportunity to shine.
The major issue with this drama comes in its final act. Whereas the miniseries had three full hours to build and develop the plot, the adaptation has less than two hours to squeeze everything in. The result makes for a rushed climax in which plot threads are unable to find a satisfying resolution, if they’re even given one at all. A greater misstep comes in the form of a late revelation that completely undermines the film’s central talking point in one fell swoop.
The Unforgivable’s greatest asset is its magnificent cast, who all give exquisite performances in translating this drama to the big screen. It’s disappointing and frustrating, then, that the film’s frantic sprint to the finish and a woefully misguided plot twist spoil an otherwise exceptional piece. Viewers would be recommended to seek out the original series instead.
The Unforgivable is released nationwide on 10th December 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Unforgivable here: