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Review: The Unforgivable (2021)

Yeah, the quality of this movie really was unforgivable.

It does not take a lot of convincing to get me to see a movie starring either Sandra Bullock or Viola Davis. Both women rank high on my list of favourite actresses and I am consistently entertained any time I see either one in a movie or TV show. So when I found out about Netflix’s The Unforgivable (2021), a new movie starring both of these fantastic women, I was completely sold on checking it out. How could I not? A family drama starring Bullock AND Davis, both of who have Oscars for dramatic roles? I’m sold! Despite The Unforgivable being a Netflix original I had a surprising amount of hope for this movie going into it. But just like when my mom used to pass off fish sticks as chicken fingers, I was fooled. Turns out even the considerable talent of Bullock and Davis wasn’t enough to salvage this movie. 

Credit: / Netflix

Based on the British miniseries of the same name, The Unforgivable follows Ruth Slater, a woman who is released from prison after serving time for a violent crime. As she struggles to re-enter society, she quickly discovers that those around her are not as quick to forgive her past as she would hope.

Based on the opening five minutes of this movie I immediately had a hunch that the remaining hour and 45 minutes were going to be a pretty unpleasant watch completely devoid of joy. I was absolutely correct. The colours throughout are so muted, drab and grey, a creative choice that transferred to the overall tone and execution of the movie as well. The Unforgivable is bland. The central plot of Ruth trying to reconnect with her estranged sister is compelling but the movie is so bogged down by frequent flashbacks and uninteresting supporting characters that it distracts from the few positive aspects of the movie. There are way too many characters and not a single one of them is as interesting as Ruth. 

No one cares about her sister Katie or her piano recital. No one cares about the brothers seeking revenge on Ruth for the murder of their father. No one cares about Blake, Ruth’s co-worker who is trying to romance her. Almost all of these characters could have been cut from the final edit in my opinion. In fact, just go ahead and skip over them each time they pop up. All of these characters don’t seem to add anything of intrigue or value to the overall story. Every time the movie would cut to one of the aforementioned characters Ruth’s story would come to a screeching halt and any interest I had in The Unforgivable would slowly but surely disappear even more. It’s not surprising that this movie is based on a miniseries because honestly, there’s only about 40 minutes of actual gripping material in this entire movie. This movie could have been condensed into an episode of any given crime procedural. Or a 70 minute Lifetime movie. With some light editing you could totally recut The Unforgivable to be a Lifetime thriller or even a horror movie. It has all the elements! A family that movies into a new house with a dark past, a murderer who returns who is hiding secrets, a kidnapping and a jaw-dropping twist. 

Every time I see Davis I am just floored and amazed by how phenomenal an actress she is. Even in the briefest of scenes when her character is doing the bare minimum, she is so talented that she commands attention with everything she does. Unfortunately, The Unforgivable makes the enormous mistake of wasting Davis’ talents by largely excluding her from the movie. What a monumental waste! There is an electric three minute scene between Davis and Bullock that is a great showcase of their talents and it’s a colossal disappointment that more of the movie doesn’t capitalize on these two heavyweight actresses. Bullock is ACTING. She’s bringing her A game. Her powerful performance as Ruth is undoubtedly the best part of The Unforgivable. Between this, The Starling (2021) and Red Notice (2021) – check out my review, here – Netflix clearly has no trouble securing A-list talent but has a huge problem with utilizing those talents to the best of their abilities. Why do they keep casting these great actors in terrible movies?  Is it because they know they don’t have to worry about a box office?

Aside from some pretty decent performances I can think of no reason to recommend The Unforgivable. Dreadfully slow-moving and needlessly convoluted, how about you skip this movie and instead treat yourself to your 15,000th viewing of Home Alone (1990)? By the way, check out my review, here. It’s Christmas time you deserve some joy! What you don’t deserve is countless scenes of the grueling fish-mongering process.

Have you seen The Unforgivable?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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