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Bullock redefines the question of forgiveness

One quick glance at The Unforgivable and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is going to turn out to be some soppy, Hallmark-like film. But this is one film where appearances certainly don’t sum up what you are going to be in for when you sit down to watch the film.

By David Griffiths

Saturday 11 December 2021, 11:00AM

Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable (2021). Image: IMDB

Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable (2021). Image: IMDB

Directed by Nora Fingscheidt (System Crasher), The Unforgivable follows what happens when Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock – Speed) is released after a long stint in prison. Upon her release Ruth just wants to get on with her life – she wants to find work and try to create a new ‘normal’ for herself. But what she doesn’t count on is what is stacked up against her.

First of all there is Steve (Will Pullen – Greyhound) and Keith Whelan (Tom Guiry – Black Hawk Down) who are determined to make her pay for the crime that she has committed and she soon realises that when it comes down to employment it is not as easy to find a job if you are an ex-con as she first thought.

Then there is the fact that she wants to try to reconnect with Katie (Aisling Franciosi – The Nightingale), but is being prevented from doing so by Katie’s foster-parents, Michael (Richard Thomas – It) and Rachel Malcolm (Linda Emond – The Big Sick). Even with a friend, Blake (Jon Bernthal – The Walking Dead), and a lawyer, John Ingram (Vincent D’Onofrio – Men In Black), in her corner, life is now going to be the biggest fight that Ruth has ever had.

The brilliance of The Unforgivable lies with what the screenwriters kept hidden from their audience for much of the film. Early on with this film you are not sure what crime Ruth has committed or what her true relationship with Katie was. The result puts the audience in an interesting dilemma: Do they throw all their eggs into the one basket and ‘barrack’ for Ruth, or do they wait to see what she has done?

Then throughout the film the audience finds themself drip-fed what happened, at times that in itself makes the audience’s dilemma even tougher because when the information starts to come through they begin to think that perhaps she committed one of the most unforgivable crimes that a human could commit.

Some audience members will enjoy that feeling and some will not, either way you do have to give credit to both the screenwriters and Nora Fingscheidt for the way the film plays out. Of course they keep the biggest surprise for the finale with a reveal that will floor even the most hardened cinema fan and let’s just say that this is one film finale that you certainly won’t be disappointed in… In fact, it is one that you are likely to be talking to your friends about for years to come.

The one thing this film does show early on though is that the fears about this film being a Hallmark film are unjust. Ruth is released into a world where she is forced to live with violent criminals and drug abusers and Fingscheidt shows very early on that she is not going to hold back when the film needs to be gritty.

This film also brings out the best in its cast. Bullock is in Oscar-winning form here and she brilliantly takes to a role that at one moment will have her brawling with one of her new ‘house-mates’ at one moment and then breaking down when it all gets too much at other times.

What is not to be missed are the brilliant scenes that Bullock and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad) share together and the memorable scene where Ruth faces off against Michael and Rachel. These scenes alone should be enough to see Bullock get an Oscar nomination for her performance here.

The Unforgivable is a film that will stay with its audience for a while after they have watched it. At its best it is a gritty thriller that constantly keeps its audience guessing and even when it switches to drama it is a film that shows just how hard life can be for an ex-prisoner.

The Unforgivable is now screening on Netflix in Phuket.

3.5/5 Stars

David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at

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