The subject of paedophilia is generally far too controversial for film or television. Despite the increase in the depictions of perversion we are used to on screen today, Benedict Andrews’ attempt to make a paedophilic love story still seemed bold. Una, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, tells the story of a girl in her 30s, who tracks down her lover of 15 years ago, and accosts him for leaving her heartbroken. The man, who is now married, is still haunted by the incident that occurred between them and ruined his life. The film is shown through flashbacks, and despite its attempt to portray true love that bloomed between a 30-something man and a 15-year-old girl, you can’t help but feel disturbed.
Una (Rooney Mara) knew she was no regular teenager. And when she struck an unusual friendship with her neighbor, she knew why. She was deeply jealous of his girlfriend, always glaring at her whenever she passed by. But when Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) reciprocated her feelings, life always seemed better. Their friendship turned into a relationship, and she lost her virginity to him. After that, he disappeared. She gave her testimony in court, but was not permitted to see him. While she continued living in the same neighborhood, Ray was never seen again. 15 years hence, she has found a picture of him in the paper and now she knows where he works. She can finally track him down and get closure in a relationship that still continues to haunt her.
Una is clearly not an easy film to make. It is important to take certain considerations into mind, while dealing with such a subject. Ben Mendelsohn plays his part well, his emotions showing clearly under the stiff demeanor. Rooney Mara’s performance matches up, with her use of mild seduction to loosen him up. The supporting characters also deserve a mention, with Tobias Menzies being the tough boss, and Natasha Little the upscale ignorant wife. Riz Ahmed, however, is the guy who gains the most sympathy, as he is caught in Una and Ray’s messy web of the past, and taken advantage of on several counts. The story itself progresses smoothly, and emotions become tenser as secrets of the past are unraveled. Had this been your regular love story, you would probably have felt a twinge of sympathy for the characters. Yet, because of its nature, you can’t help but be disgusted by the actions of Ray, even though the movie and the actor try to justify them. In the end, you know you liked the film, but are unsure if it was a story of love, betrayal or mere perversion.