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8/10 60/100 6.4/10 76% 56%
Adapting a play into a movie is not always easy and the outcomes vary. Plays are designed to have explanatory dialogue, more expression from the performers, and less visual elements, so that the audience can imagine what happened, whereas a movie has all the freedom to show what the characters are describing.
That is why many plays adapted into films do not achieve their full potential and why I was skeptical when I learned Blackbird was being adapted into a film. Fortunately, moviegoers who have also seen the play have no reason to fear when watching Una.
David Harrower, who also wrote the play, is responsible for the screenplay and is able to keep all the elements that worked on stage, adding some flashbacks and other storylines as well.
It follows the story of Una (Rooney Mara) as she decides to confront someone from her past: Ray (Ben Mendelsohn), an older man with whom she had a relationship 15 earlier. Without doing any math it is already possible to understand that Una was extremely young when that happened and, of course, it had many consequences in her life.
She has meaningless relations with guys she meets at bars and she keeps thinking about what happened. When she goes to Ray’s workplace, after seeing a photo in a newspaper, she learns that not only has he moved on, but he also changed his name to avoid anyone knowing what had happened.
As mentioned before, the movie has flashbacks when we see the beginning of the relationship between young Una (Ruby Stokes) and Ray and one cannot help but feel a great deal of discomfort to imagine those two people together. Thanks to director Benedict Andrews and to David Harrower, the audience does not see anything explicit between them. Instead, we are left with shots of landscapes and we must imagine what is going on behind them – like we did watching the play.
The dialogue is as smart and provoking as in the play and the cast is extremely competent to tone it down for a movie. Rooney Mara is great as Una, showing all her trauma and frustration in a very subtle way. Ben Mendelsohn is also great as Ray, especially when transmitting the ambiguity his character has: did he truly disturbingly love Una or is he only a very sick (and dangerous) man?
The ending, just like the play’s, gives us hints as for the answers and, as it was over, I was just as intrigued and disturbed by this story as the first time I saw it.