Review: Sandra Bullock is Gritty, Stoic in 'The Unforgivable'

by Noe Kamelamela

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 29, 2021

'The Unforgivable'
'The Unforgivable'  (Source:Netflix)

Fans of UK television may remember the three-part drama "Unforgiven," which aired over a decade ago. Crime procedurals have few options, especially in TV, and shows tend to tell one story from two or three viewpoints at most. In "The Unforgivable," as in movies where a terrible crime is dissected, the story gets told over and over by different characters, sometimes in literally seconds, and with different emphases each time. There's a level of tension in this movie that is quite impressive, given that it isn't meant to be a horror film.

Twenty years ago, Ruth was convicted for the murder of a sheriff who came to evict her and her sister from their family home. When she's released, she searches for her sisters, but she is also being hunted. Instead of the cold Yorkshire weather and warm Northern people, the Netflix adaptation shifts to the backdrop of a washed-out grey Seattle sky. In particular, the drastic gaps between incarceration in the UK and the U.S. are wide. In fact, it is almost comical by comparison how much more hostility the American Ruth has to deal with, not just from the system, but from the people around her once they learn her past forwarding address. In particular, the addition and enlargement of roles related to the prison system, both lawyers, officers, and even the public transit system, really fleshes out the true barriers to re-entry to society that a female convict has here.

While the original left no questions as to Ruth's culpability, the Netflix adaptation plays a little fast and loose with responsibility, and also frames some characters as more questionable than in the original. It is the kind of movie where it becomes very clear that every character breaks the law, at least a little bit, which is true to life. Much as with the original, it is not radical enough to suggest that prisons be abolished. Sandra Bullock's performance is filled both with grit and a stoic acceptance that Ruth is not in charge of what happens next.


"The Unforgivable" begins streaming on Netflix on December 10th

Noe Kamelamela is a reader who reads everything and a writer who writes very little.