Rooney Mara is the title character, a twenty-something who takes action after seeing a picture of Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) in a magazine. The two have a past. Fifteen years earlier, when she was thirteen and Ray was a middle-aged man, he seduced her, a crime he paid for with four years in prison. “You wanted to be treated like an adult,” Ray says. “That’s what children say.”
Convinced his actions put her in a downward spiral, she goes to his place of work to confront him. He’s re-established himself with a new name, wife and job. She demands to know why he did what he did, and why he abandoned her when they were about to make a run for it and leave England to start a new life together.
What might have been a straightforward story of a search for answers defies preconceived audience expectations with the ethical landmines Harrower (who also wrote the script) plants along the way. In its most startling turn “Una” asks the audience to consider the interaction between Ray and Una, the abuser and the abused, as some kind of love story. Rooney and Mendelsohn, both very good in difficult roles, explore the thin lines the story draws between abuse and love, between right and wrong, between desire and guilt. It’s complicated and messy as Ray is forced to confront a past he’d rather subvert while Una looks for answers. “I don’t know anything about you except you abused me,” she says.
“Una” lurches headlong into controversial territory, unflinchingly presenting a painful story that offers no easy answers.