Sandra Bullock’s performance is the only bright spot of this otherwise overly melodramatic and slow paced film that has no business existing other than to give Sandra Bullock a shot at an Oscar. The story feels old-fashioned and poised at making us sympathize with those who have served their time, rather than justifying its jarring plot developments and decisions of every character we barely meet.

Sandra Bullock plays Ruth Slater, a woman released from prison after serving 20 years for committing a violent crime. She comes back to a society that refuses to forgive her for her past as she tries to find a way to move on. Ruth’s only hope at redemption is to find her estranged sister that she was forced to leave behind.

The Stuff I Liked

Sandra Bullock has always had the uncanny ability to lose herself in every role she plays in my humble opinion and The Unforgivable in another shining example. She looks like she actually spent 20 years behind bars. Her morose and distraught performance kept my interest and had me thinking about everyone who serves their entire prison sentence. Those who serve their time and are trying to adjust to life on the outside never seem to have it easy. The movie shows us the uglier side of life after prison and doesn’t hold back, which had me sympathizing with everyone who commits a crime, then serves their time and gets out aspiring to move on with their life. I pondered which ones deserve forgiveness and which ones don’t. This is sadly the end of what I liked about this movie and it only goes downhill from here. 

The Pace of a Prison Sentence

I’m not sure if this was deliberate, but after this movie finished, I felt like I had served a very long prison sentence. I never mind if a film decides to tell the story at a slower pace, especially if it really benefits the story and characters. However, The Unforgivable is unforgivably slow for all the wrong reasons. On top of this, we are treated to long drawn out scenes of the main character Ruth slicing fish and performing solid construction. This is a great chance to show off Sandra Bullock’s talent, but the main characters and story suffered in favour of these work scenes. 

Instead of showing Ruth doing her job, they should’ve spent more time developing every other character that we meet. To add some context, Ruth’s violent crime was commiting murder and one of the victim’s children isn’t happy she gets released 20 years later. His intentions are to make this woman’s life a living hell because what she did is, wait for it, UNFORGIVABLE. His intentions are understandable considering she killed his father, however, we don’t get much else other than a very angry man who is really unlikeable and hard to sympathize with. This man’s brother is even worse having seemingly put his fathers death behind him, only to become even more obsessed than his brother in a very short amount of time. The writers did nothing to justify this, which appeared to be a trend with this movie. Even the cinematography is rather dark and depressing. The direction was average because it didn’t offer anything original or memorable. A little intensity in the directing would’ve helped the story come alive.   

It gets worse

When I saw the poster and mini-trailer for The Unforgivable, I was expecting a more nail-biting thriller and instead of that, I was treated to a too slow and underwhelming experience that left me feeling like I wasted my time watching it. This movie is actually an adaptation of a mini-series and it actually makes an excellent argument for why you shouldn’t turn a mini-series into a movie. There is simply too much information to divulge in a short amount of time and if you do attempt this difficult task, tighten the story and give us more from its characters. This movie is filled with the talents of Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, and Vincent D”Onofrio and they are all reduced to one note characters that are conveniently there to drive the movie’s plot forward. Speaking of driving, Viola Davis always gives it her all in every role she portrays and I feel terrible that she was reduced to an Uber driver for Sandra Bullock.

Warning : I may give away some minor plot points in the rest of my review. So, if you wish to see the movie first, go watch it and continue reading later. I sadly have to mention a few things so that you could understand my frustration with this movie. 

The house that Sandra Bullock lived in before she was arrested just so happens to have the exact person who could potentially help her reunite with her long lost sister. There is another event that is presented as a surprise to justify a character’s actions later on, but we are given no context or proper justification for this particular incident. I actually paused the movie and tried to think of something to defend the film and I came up with…nothing. Ruth’s little sister Katie was adopted by a new family after she was arrested. After learning what happened, they felt it was best to completely erase the past to help her move on and live a normal life. Over the past 20 years, Ruth had been sending letters to try and establish new contact with her sister. The parents never showed her the letters and eventually meet her. That meeting served as confirmation to keep them separated. However, other events, which are motivated with leaps in logic happen, bringing both sisters back together. The parents barely acknowledge it happening. There is an argument that can be made for how that was handled, but it felt too implausible. 
The Unforgivable makes too many convenient plot decisions, throwing logic out the window completely and as a result, we are left with plot holes so big, even super handy Ruth can’t fix them. Jon Bernthal is another wasted actor because they could’ve developed their awkward and cute friendship/romance into something more. But, we don’t get enough of a backstory about his character and their interactions felt wasted by the time the credits started rolling.

Final verdict 

The deeper we got into the film, the less I enjoyed it and found myself contemplating turning it off because I was completely bored even by the supposedly amazing conclusion, which I found cliché and dull. The only reason The Unforgivable exists is to give Sandra Bullock a shot at an Oscar. Even as I write this review, if it wasn’t for my notes, I would struggle to tell you what happened in this film. Great acting can’t make up for the snail pace, lazy writing, and forgettable directing. Do yourself a favour and treat it like my girlfriend did, put it on to fall asleep on the couch.


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