Bullock plays a dead-eyed woman restarting life after 20 years behind bars for killing a police officer, in this compressed and contrived adaptation of Sally Wainwright’s miniseries Unforgiven
Sally Wainwright’s award-winning ITV crime drama Unforgiven has been redeveloped for Netflix as a feature film; it has been transplanted from Yorkshire to Seattle, and the title has been changed, perhaps to prevent any confusion with the Clint Eastwood movie. Sandra Bullock takes over Suranne Jones’s leading role as Ruth Slater, a woman released from prison on licence after 20 years for killing a cop in a semi-accidental spasm of rage and fear when the officer was sent in to enforce her eviction. Now she is obsessed with tracking down her only family: kid sister Katherine, who was put up for adoption after Ruth was sent down.
Bullock is in full zero-makeup blue-collar real mode as the dead-eyed ex-con, and this faintly ridiculous role in this faintly ridiculous movie does not allow for any of the wit and fun that usually make her such a watchable performer. On release, Ruth goes to a grim hostel downtown, checks in with her tough-but-fair parole officer Vincent (Rob Morgan), and gets a scuzzy job gutting fish, where she develops a highly implausible romantic spark with fellow fish-gutter Blake (Jon Bernthal). She then very improbably manages to befriend John Ingram (Vincent D’Onofrio), the corporate lawyer who happens to live with his wife (Viola Davis) and kids in Ruth’s old house (the one she killed the cop in).
Ruth persuades him to help her to make contact with the uptight adoptive parents who are deeply protective of the now teenaged Katherine (Aisling Franciosi), who remembers much more of the trauma than they realise. Meanwhile, the dead cop’s grownup sons are seething with vengeful rage. The plot’s twists and turns, which were manageable in a three-part TV drama, look contrived and unlikely in a feature film and Bullock has little to do but look self-consciously solemn and martyred for the entirety of it.
• The Unforgivable is released on 26 November in cinemas and on 10 December on Netflix.