Revenge, redemption and other meanings of the film “Unforgiven”
Country: UK, Germany, USA
Genre: drama, crime
Year of production: 2021
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio
Slogan: “No one walks free of their past”
Critics and many viewers call Nora Fingscheidt’s “The Unforgivable” an “extremely addictive drama.” And this is true: for all the leisurely pace of this measured plot, it is difficult to tear yourself away from the screen.
The meaning of the film “Unforgiven” is that life is often arranged too intricately and not always everything turns out to be what it seems. This is a heavy and difficult film, which, nevertheless, is easy to watch.
Plot of the film
Brief description of the contents of the picture. The plot centers on a woman named Ruth Slater. After serving the sentence she was given for murdering the sheriff and being released on parole, she gets a job and begins to look for her younger sister Katie. The sisters have a big age difference and in the past, when they were left without parents, Ruth tried to replace her sister’s mother. After her arrest, the girl was placed in a foster family.
Sandra Bullock played the role of Ruth Slater. Still from the film.
Meanwhile, the eldest son of the deceased sheriff, Keith, learns about the release of the main character. It seems terribly unfair to him that his father’s killer (who has been punished!) is free and he decides to find Ruth and take revenge on her at all costs. Keith’s brother Steve believes that there is no point in pursuing Ruth: you won’t bring your father back anyway. However, Keith becomes literally obsessed with the idea of “punishing” Ruth, and Steve unwittingly follows his lead.
Soon the main character meets John and Liz Ingram. John is a corporate lawyer. Ruth, confiding in him, talks about how she wants to find her sister. John decides to help and, even after learning about the young woman’s dark past, he does not give up his intentions. His logic is simple: everyone deserves a second chance.
John eventually manages to discover the location of Katie’s new family. He turns to the girl’s adoptive parents and they at first refuse to meet with Ruth, citing the fact that there is no point in this, but in the end they reluctantly agree. During the meeting, Ruth learns that Katie knows nothing about her at all, because her adoptive parents did not give her the letters she sent from prison. They are sure that Katie buried her dead man long ago and it is better for the girls not to meet.
A little later, Katie’s younger half-sister, Emily, finds out about Ruth. Having discovered old letters that her parents for some reason continued to keep, she becomes imbued with the situation and decides to help the sisters meet. She contacts Ruth by phone, who desperately asks to meet her. Emily agrees and at a short meeting says that Katie has connected her life with music and plays the piano beautifully. Getting ready to leave, the girl says that Katie will soon have a rehearsal at a local concert hall and invites her to come. Steve, who continues to monitor the situation, begins to follow Emily, and soon finds out where she lives. A plan is slowly forming in his head, which he is going to tell his brother about.
Tom Guiry as Keith and Will Pullen as Steve. Still from the film.
Meanwhile, Ruth is faced with problems one after another: she is constantly faced with misunderstanding and even fear addressed to her. Realizing that the key to the hostile attitude of others lies in her prison past, Ruth reluctantly recalls long-ago events.
It turns out that she was not the one who killed the sheriff – five-year-old Katie fired the ill-fated shot from a gun. Miraculously, the child managed to pick up the weapon and kill the sheriff, who came to evict the children from the house they occupied, with one shot. After this, the shocked Ruth expectedly decided to take all the blame on herself. Her interpretation of the tragic events did not raise any questions among anyone: she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
A little later, Steve catches Keith in bed with his wife and goes completely crazy. Thinking that Emily is Katie, he kidnaps her, contacts Ruth and demands that she urgently come to where he says. Ruth asks Liz Ingram, who already knows everything, to take her to meet Steve. Having learned what the matter is, Liz immediately contacts the authorities.
Towards the end, Ruth meets with Steve and he says that he will now kill the girl in front of her eyes – this will be his revenge for his father. Ruth expresses sincere remorse for everything that happened, Steve hesitates and eventually allows the girls to leave.
Explanation of the ending of the picture. At the very end, the police arrive on the scene and Ruth surrenders to the authorities. The police arrest both her and Steve. However, later, thanks to John’s intervention, she is released.
Everything that happened becomes known to Katie’s new family, and the adoptive parents, under the influence of Emily, who was saved by Ruth, finally allow the sisters to meet. The meaning of the ending of the film “Unforgiven” is that Ruth managed to reconcile with society and meet with her loved one. In addition, the main character in fact, and not in words, realized that life exists after a long imprisonment and she is no longer “unforgiven.”
The meaning of the film
The hidden meaning of the picture lies in its title. Ruth served time in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. But at the same time, she remains unforgiven – those around her are not happy about her return to society. Almost constantly she has to deal with unmotivated aggression and rejection – after all, according to public opinion, “the innocent are not imprisoned,” and a person who has served time is still dangerous. This means that you need to protect yourself from it and stay away.
In their analyses, viewers note that Nora Fingscheidt’s film raises a very complex but important topic of adaptation of former prisoners to everyday, relatively normal life. At the same time, the director explores the question of who exactly needs adaptation – the one who came out of prison and is ready to make his contribution to making society better, or the environment mired in stereotypes.
“Unforgiven” also explores the theme of revenge, and from a very interesting angle. Steve is guided exclusively by the Old Testament principle of “an eye for an eye”: he wants to kill not Ruth herself, but the kidnapped Emily, thinking that this is her sister. The logic here is: “you killed my relative, now I will kill yours.” To this, the main character turns her other cheek in a completely New Testament way – that is, even at a critical moment she does not say how everything really happened. And it is then that she ceases to be unforgiven – the kidnapper, who is mired in his own problems and got involved in this case almost by accident, does not raise his hand to kill the girl. He cannot take “just retribution”…
Emma Nelson played the role of Emily Malcolm. Still from the film.
However, this is not the only point of the film. “Unforgiven” is also a story about the personal and the public. On the one hand, we see how sincerely Ruth wants to reunite with her only loved one. However, on the other side of the scale is the future of Katie, who begins to show great promise in high school: her psyche simply blocked the tragic past, so why reopen an old wound?
In a word, dramatic redemption here comes into serious conflict with the collective decision to “live as before,” according to the principle: “I don’t see it, so it doesn’t exist.” Which is better, which is correct? Nobody knows, and Fingscheidt’s film doesn’t offer ready answers either.
The film repeatedly hears the phrase about a second chance, and it turns out that even the most conventionally democratic and tolerant society is not always ready to give it. Probably one of the main lessons that can be learned from this picture is precisely that you shouldn’t be quick to act and judge rashly. It’s easy to put on a white coat, but who among us is without sin? Life is complex, and human actions, even the most seemingly bad ones, can be painted in hundreds of different shades. And the most important thing is to try to be able to give another this very second chance, to forgive, understand and accept.
You might think that this picture says that all crimes need to be forgiven. This is not true – people sometimes do terrible things for which there is no forgiveness. The film, first of all, talks about how important it is to stop in time and think carefully. After all, as Atticus Finch said, “You can’t truly understand a person until you take his point of view.”
Is the film “Unforgiven” based on real events?
The film “Unforgiven” is not based on real events, but on the British mini-series “Unforgiven”, filmed in 2009. The screenplay for the film was written by Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz and Courtney Miles. This is a completely fictional story, but it feels true because it raises real social issues.
Ashling Franciosi stars as Catherine Malcolm. Still from the film.
Here are several films that are somewhat similar in plot and meaning to the film “Unforgiven”:
- “Wind River” (USA, UK, Canada, 2016). The mutilated body of a girl was discovered on the territory of an Indian reservation. FBI agent Jane Banner takes over the investigation.
- “The Girl on the Train” (USA, 2016). Experiencing family drama, Rachel rides the London train every day. One day, in the window of one of the houses, she notices something.
- “Reckoning” (USA, 2016). The film tells the story of a mathematical and criminal genius.
- “Just Mercy” (USA, 2019). Black lawyer Bryan Stevenson defends the rights of people who cannot afford to hire an expensive lawyer.