The Unforgivable, the Underrated

Netflix’s The Unforgivable is an underrated if flawed gem among the streaming giant’s overcrowded litany of offerings, and it’s a shame that its failure to elicit Oscar buzz meant that it was completely written off by blue checks and bumbling cinephiles alike. Sandra Bullock hasn’t been this good since Gravity, and she’s supported amply by the subtle talents of Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Half of the film works, both as an examination of ex-con life in America and as an emotionally cathartic drama about sibling love and surrogate motherhood. The other half attempts to combine Bullock’s story of an ex-con traversing the pitfalls and potholes of life after prison with a contrived and incompetent thriller about revenge, wherein the young sons of her victim are now adults and looking for retribution. Between the inorganic manner in which these two halves collide, and the simple-minded character sketches that accompany these two brothers, it’s a silly and poorly written subplot that would overshadow the film’s positive attributes were it not for screen time. Fortunately, the other half receives double the attention, foisting upon Bullock’s Ruth Slater a series of obstacles that could have been merely unrelenting, but director Nora Fingscheidt’s delicate hand prevents The Unforgivable from becoming misery porn (unlike Bruised, another grim star vehicle in recent weeks). Nora’s film is occasionally predictable, and it doesn’t matter when deft handling of such sensitive material earns an ending more cathartic than expected. You’ll never feel greater sympathy for a murderer than you will watching this film.

Grade: B-

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