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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 5, 2022



‘THE UNFORGIVABLE’ is a Netflix movie based on a 2009 British drama mini-series, “Unforgiven”.  It’s a hit as one of the most highly streamed films in Netflix. 

It’s very commercial in its story and treatment, the type that critics would enjoy cutting into shreds to make minced meat. 

This review has spoilers, so if you intend to watch it on Netflix, then don’t read it. 

The film is meant to be an acting piece for Sandra Bullock and she does shine in a role where she is totally deglamorized, not smiling even for a moment and tries to avoid interacting with other people. This is her second Netflix film after the apocalyptic horror-thriller “Bird Box”.  

She now plays Ruth Slater, a glum-looking woman who is freed after 20 years in jail. Her crime was shooting to death a cop who is tasked to evict her and her then 5-year old sister, Katie. 

She is raising Katie then all by herself, as their parents are both dead. She was actually  just trying to scare the cop who's trying to evict them that she has a gun. Then a shot is suddenly heard.

Her parole officer, Vince Cross (Rob Morgan), now helps her get a job cleaning raw fish in factory. She starts to look for Katie even if she is strictly forbidden by law to ever get in touch with her.

Katie has been adopted by Michael and Rachel Malcolm (Richard Thomas and Linda Emond), who want to shield her from her sister who is a convicted killer. 

She is now a young woman (Aisling Francisoi) who is a proficient piano player. She doesn’t seem to have memories of Ruth but it’s obvious that the traumatic memories of her past still affect her.

 The real daughter of the Malcolms, Emily (Emma Nelson), is very sympathetic with her adoptive sister after learning her parents didn’t show to Katie any of the letters Ruth sent to her while in prison. She now wants to help Katie to meet Ruth in person.

The sons of the cop Ruth killed, Steve (Will Pullen) and Keith (Tom Guiry) have found out that she has been released from prison and Keith now wants to take revenge on her.  Steve is married and doesn’t want any violence, but later on, he will change his mind about this.

Ruth decides to visit their old home and meets its new owners, John and Liz Ingram (Vincent Onforio and Viola Davis). She learns John is a lawyer and asks his help to look for her estranged sister.

Things get more complicated and very contrived when Steve discovers that his wife is having an affair with his own brother Keith. He then kidnaps Katie, not knowing that the girl he kidnapped is actually Emily. 

This is one movie with so many characters with conflicting motivations and with so many contrived situations. 

Some of the actors are fairly big names but are given little to do, like Viola Davis as the lawyer’s husband who initially hates Ruth, and Jon Bernthal as another convict who has feelings for Ruth but who she doesn’t want to encourage. 

But the core story is really strong as Ruth manages to get our sympathy all the time, specially after it was revealed that it wasn’t really she who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed the cop but Katie, giving the story a tinge of twisted sacrifice. 

Why didn’t Ruth just tell the truth so she could have avoided prison? Katie won’t be imprisoned anyway since she was then about five years old.

You cannot fault the acting of Sandra as Ruth, a very damaged person oozing with sadness and regrets in life. 

Some of the characters are needlessly given more exposure than they deserve, like the brothers involved in the revenge plot that is obviously injected just to give the film a suspense-filled climax.

The ending, which shows the two long lost sisters finally reunited, is a heartbreaker, but it avoids being melodramatic. 

It is a wordless scene, but you don’t need words at all for this kind of conclusion that is totally in keeping with Sandra’s compelling but very quiet, unhysterical performance in the lead role.