Dealing with assault and its on-going trauma, ‘Una and Ray’ is as uncomfortable watching as it needs to be. From a similar page as Andrea Arnold’s searing ‘Red Road’, ‘Una and Ray’s’ corkscrew plot slowly reveals the secrets and intentions of its characters with a likewise, grim brutality. Avoiding both melodrama or contrivance, neither the filming nor the script ever compromise its dark subject matter. With a frame and a setting as empty as the characters it portrays, ‘Una and Ray’ is a film that shows people hulled out from a past that won’t let either of them go, and yet, as a viewer, still draws you in.
Rooney Mara disappears inside her character as if trapped in a diving bell of hurt.
In the lead role as Una, Rooney Mara disappears inside her character as if trapped in a diving bell of hurt. Witnessing her bleak life in its descent, she decides to go to Ray, who from his very first glance, Ben Mendelsohn cements as a real human being. Or at least somebody trying to behave as one. For as the movie plays out, the focus here is on creating a tangible realism and believable reactions rather than cinematic operatics or concessions to saccharine. This is an intimate story of abuse and misplaced trust and how its embers can still burn down a life whilst still threatening the match holder.
Understand this. After seeing ‘Una and Ray’ you will be left with the feeling that this is a no-holds barred, adult drama. Like the Tim Roth’s ’The War Zone’, Thomas Vinterberg’s ‘The Hunt’ and Nicole Kassell’s ’The Woodsman’, ‘Una and Ray’ is an intelligent story with believable characters that will consume you as much as it does its cast. However by watching ‘Una and Ray’ unfold you will be as challenged as the characters on screen. Here, the acting on show is only to serve the story, and it does so by rewarding you with a similarly memorable film.