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Absence makes the hurt grow stronger.

Rooney as: Una
Genre(s): Drama
Written by: David Harrower
Directed by: Benedict Andrews
Other Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Tara Fitzgerald, Ruby Stokes
Release Date: October 6, 2017 (Limited)
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $508k
Filming Locations: Camberley, Surrey and Rochester, Kent, England, UK

  • Una, based on David Harrower’s play ‘Blackbird’, follows a young woman’s journey to reclaim her past.

    Fifteen years earlier, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was arrested and imprisoned. When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability.

    Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface as Una and Ray sift through the wreckage of the past. Their confrontation raises unanswered questions and unresolved longings. It will shake them both to the core.

    Una gazes into the heart of a devastating form of love and asks if redemption is possible.

    Production Info

  • Based on the play Blackbird by David Harrower, who also adapted the screenplay.
  • Rooney Mara became involved with the film after she was advised of its development by Cate Blanchett whilst they were filming Carol together. Director Benedict Andrews had previously worked with Blanchett on several theatre productions.
  • Quoting: Rooney Mara

    On her attraction to the role: Una was a very challenging and intense five weeks of shoot. I had to go to some dark places. But I had been thinking about it for 8 years, since seeing the play, so it was something I really wanted to do. The great thing about the piece is that it opens up a dialogue. It doesn’t tie things up in a neat package. It’s not putting people in categories. It’s very complicated.

    On discovering the source material: I was really very passionate about it for a long time. I wanted to do Blackbird since I first saw the play in 2007. And then when I was making Carol, me and Cate [Blanchett] were talking about theatre and I told her that this was the play I really wanted to do. And she said: ‘Oh my God: my friend is making that into a film.’ It turned out Cate has worked with Una’s director Benedict [Andrews] many times and she said that he was desperate to meet me for the role.”

    On the themes: It’s not this black-and-white thing where there’s a villain and a victim. It’s more complex. Was there a connection or is he a sick man? I think that’s Una’s question too. And I think that’s part of what drew me to the play. But also there was this weird, small part of me that kind of wanted them to be together as adults.

    On Una and Ray’s relationship: If you’re asking me if what he did was wrong, the answer is yes, of course. But that doesn’t mean that he’s an evil person. Do I think it’s possible for people of wildly different ages to have feelings for each other? Yes. But as an adult you don’t let that go anywhere with a 13-year-old. Of course not. But that doesn’t mean he’s evil. I just don’t think the world is that simple. That black and white.

    On working with Ben Mendelsohn: I loved it. We rehearsed a lot together because it’s so much dialogue, and we instantly had a connection. I felt super safe with him. We shot the movie almost in chronological order, so we were in that lunch room together in the beginning. We created our own little world, much like the way Ray and Una did. We had our own little secret world, and it was hard when the other actors came in. I’m sure it was harder for them because I’m sure they could feel that, that we were like, “Don’t come into our world.”

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director Benedict Andrews: Rooney was my first choice. I thought she was the perfect person to play this role. I felt, and it is clear she does, have the bravery to tackle it and put herself on the line. I love the fierce intelligence she has with a kind of beguiling beauty. You could have cast it with an actress who was a bit more ‘girl-next-door.’ But I love that Rooney has this almost alien beauty or this kind of enigma that makes you want to know her. But it’s not necessarily easy. You’ve got to kind of come to her.

    Director Benedict Andrews: There are incredible shots of Rooney’s face reflected in the glass of the vending machine or in mirrors. That’s discovered from the camera watching her. The different faces she has throughout the film, and the way the camera can capture that beguiling beauty that she has and her incredible elegance mixed with complete rawness and vulnerability. She’s extraordinary, she really is. She’s a great, unique face of cinema and every inch a movie star.

    Co-star Ben Mendelsohn: Rooney is an incredibly brave – fearless, you would say – actor, and it’s one of the great delights about her, is the real combination of strength and woundedness or hurt that comes across in some of the finest work. It’s very, very rare to have someone, as well, that’s such a still and statuesque figure. I mean, there’s something really dignified about her, as a person. There’s a real dignity to her and the way she carries herself. Playing a character that has that degree of turmoil and something that she has to know, is like handing her a grenade, and she’s incredibly powerful with that stuff. Incredibly powerful.

    Critical Response

    Kevin Maher, The Times: Mara, the twice Oscar-nominated star of Carol, gives another magnetic, almost feral turn as Una, with incessantly piercing eyes and sudden temperature shifts.

    Christopher Schobert, The Film Stage: Mara gives her finest performance to date — a statement that might seem hyperbolic given her stunning work in Carol and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but Una requires even more emotional stamina.

    David Ehrlich, Indiewire: Rooney Mara has a way of making every part she takes feel like the role that she was born to play, but the actress’ gift for impassively conveying some unknown inner turbulence — so essential to films like “Carol” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” — brings a uniquely rich and volatile immediacy to Una’s buried turmoil. You can feel it under her skin, the steadiness of her sharp features like the calm ocean surface above a shipwreck. The movie only works if you can believe in the truth of Una’s rash and increasingly drastic decisions, and Mara sells us on every one of them, a tightrope walker whose act is all the more exciting because she occasionally loses her balance. She’s been this good before, but she’s never been good quite like this.

    David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Mara’s simmering performance is impressive in its negotiation of that tricky balance, never downplaying the active role of the naive, young Una in encouraging a liaison they both knew was wrong. Her acts of self-sacrificial seduction are also queasy and unsettling as she tests her enduring power over her former lover.

    Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist: Like the original source material, “Una” wants to leave you conflicted on how you feel about Una and Ray’s relationship then and now (if there really is a relationship in the present). Thankfully, Mara is incredible at conveying Una’s deep seeded pain. At one moment Una finally lets it all out and it might be the most vulnerable Mara has ever appeared on screen.