The Unforgiveable

Written by Maria Athayde


The Unforgivable, directed by Nora Fingscheidt and starring Sandra Bullock and Viola Davis fails to deliver despite its on-screen talent. The movie feels rushed, the script weak, and fails to properly develop its characters, especially the secondary ones, to care about the story being told. On the surface, this movie had a compelling premise. Ruth Slater (Bullock) is released from prison after 20 years for murdering a cop and is trying to reconnect with the much younger sister she left behind when she went to prison. 

In parallel, Keith (Tom Guiry) and Steve Whelan (Will Pullen) learn about Ruth’s release and are set on avenging their father’s death. They want Ruth to experience the same pain they shared when their father died years earlier. Ruth tries to navigate life as an ex-convict in a society that is not set up for reintegration while trying to begin the process to reconnect with her sister. During this search to find her sister, Ruth visits her childhood home only to discover it has been renovated and is now inhabited by a new family, attorney John (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Liz Ingram (Viola Davis), seemingly unaware of the events that transpired in that house 20 years prior. John agrees to take on Ruth’s case pro-bono and the search for her sister, Katherine (Aisling Franciosi) intensifies. Ruth eventually has an unsuccessful meeting with Katherine’s adoptive parents as she pleads with them to allow her to reconnect with her sister. From this meeting forward the movie intensifies but not enough to sincerely engage viewers with caring about the particulars of the events on screen.

This movie is a rare and perfect example of the type of material that would work better as a mini-series. The way this movie was set up with a little backstory to the characters besides Ruth, often told in flashbacks, made me not care about its narrative thrust. If these sisters will be reunited or not. In a mini-series, at least, we would get a chance to spend more time with each of these characters, learn more about their motivations, and the repercussions of Ruth’s choices all those years ago. What made this movie even more disappointing for me is that upon its conclusion I learned that it has previously been adapted into a three-part mini-series called Unforgiven that aired on ITV in the United Kingdom in 2009. There are certainly worse films out there but this just felt like squandered potential.

The Unforgiveable

The Unforgiveable is streaming on Netflix.

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