Beginning the new year with… Una.

Disclaimer: I have seen neither the movie Una (2016) nor the play Blackbird (2005), on which the film is based. Some described it as Lolita years later fifteen years later, from Lolita’s perspective. I read that Rooney Mara plays Una, a young woman who confronts her abuser Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) years after their “relationship.” The first review that popped up in Google was that by Peter Debruge, chief reviewer with Variety

The article itself disturbs me as much as the film content. The writer refers to pedophilia as “a love that dared not speak its name” and the abuse in Una as “a love affair in which at least one party never stopped caring.” To be clear, a middle-aged man had a sexual relationship with a thirteen year old girl. This is in no way “a love affair” or a pure affection forbidden by society’s cruel mores. Debruge continues:

Her fixation on Ray is so intense that we almost feel sorry for him. He may have ruined her life by promising to take her away to Europe and then abandoning her in a small-town bed and breakfast, but there’s no question that she would ruin his if he only invited this simultaneously brittle and determined femme fatale back into his life.

He refers to a woman suffering from trauma due to child sexual abuse as a “femme fatale” and indicates that we should pity pedophiles who ruin young girls’ lives. The movie and play may show an emotional bond between Ray and Una or depict seemingly genuine remorse from Ray, but I’m confused as to why Una should be content with her lot in life while Ray should be excused from such a fate. Also, did he abandon her a bed and breakfast when she was merely a child? Not only is that extremely dangerous, it also understates the way grooming and raping a young person can ruin one’s life–trips to motels (or rather kidnapping) aside.

The author then notes that the sadism of the situation emerges more on film than in the play: “It’s as if instead of showing ‘Lolita’ from Humbert Humbert’s p.o.v., little Dolores Haze had grown up and taken matters into her own hands.” This statement suggests that it is more twisted and sadistic to turn the tables on a sexual predator than to be a sexual predator, more “comfortable” to watch stories about pedophilia from the pedophile’s perspective.

The only highlight in this shockingly cavalier review was this comment by WandaSes:

we almost feel sorry for him? Is this writer a psychopath? The whole movie is about her confronting him for what he did to her. This writer is a sick, sick person.

I don’t know what I’ll think about the film if I see it. I also don’t know how many more deplorable reviews like this will pop up. Until then, thank you WandaSes!

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3 thoughts on “Beginning the new year with… Una.

  1. Great post. I wonder if you’ll see more shades of grey if you see the film. It is certainly provocative and in no way does it condone the crime or the perpetrator, rather it isolates some of the moral ambiguities that may arise in such cases.

    Liked by 1 person

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