Sandra Bullock gives a nuanced breakthrough performance with her turn in Netflix’s new dramatic thriller, The Unforgivable. Filling the shoes of freshly released ex-con Ruth, Bullock’s convincing and fiercely faithful character makes for a likable lead. The trauma of Ruth’s past hides a dark secret she has been shielding for the entirety of her 20-year sentence. Based on the British TV miniseries Unforgiven, The Unforgivable is a decent-enough redemption drama that is easily recommendable thanks to that stellar Bullock role.
Ruth takes a job in seafood packing to make easy money, as she begins the search for her younger sister that she has not seen in over twenty years. After the suicide of their father and the unfortunate murder of the local sheriff, the two girls were separated. Ruth was sent away to jail for the murder, and even all these years later, no one will let her forget. Everywhere she turns, Ruth is branded as a cop killer. Still haunted by her past, Ruth feels as if the only way forward is by locating her sister, Katherine (Aisling Franciosi). Ruth connects with lawyer John (Vincent D’Onofrio), who conveniently has taken up residence in Ruth’s old family farmhouse, to garner his help in finding Katherine.
Viola Davis plays John’s wife, Liz, and I kept waiting for her character to play a bigger part in the story. Jon Bernthal is Ruth’s ex-con coworker, Blake (and one of the only people who seems willing to give Ruth the time of day), and gets slightly more material than Davis. One can feel the sheer amount of characters and scope of the story stretched thin, severely truncated from the tv-show iteration. However, at the end of the day, this is a film about the bond between the two sisters. In this aspect, The Unforgivable soars. I rooted for the reunion between Katherine and Ruth. Ruth’s adoration for her sister and concern for her wellbeing seems achingly real.
An emotionally-resonant ending closes out The Unforgivable on a slightly heavy-handed note. On the plus side, at least this conclusion is not as dour or downbeat as you might think. For some, it may be an issue that this movie is not particularly memorable or stand-out from a narrative standpoint. For me, seeing Sandra Bullock back in action and in unglamorous leading-lady status is reason enough to get excited. The film around her does not function on a sophisticated level, but Bullock nonetheless delivers the goods.
The Unforgivable begs for forgiveness—in theaters now, and coming exclusively to Netflix on Friday, December 10th.