“I wanted to make a movie about someone who never gets movies made about them, but yet they sacrifice every single day without a pat on the back, without someone saying ‘good job,’ without someone seeing them and recognizing them,” Bullock told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s Sunset Boulevard premiere on Tuesday evening.
In addition to starring in the Netflix film, Bullock, known on set as simply “Sandy,” also serves as a producer, alongside Veronica Ferres and Graham King.
Directed by Nora Fingscheidt in her first English-language film, The Unforgivable follows Ruth Slater (Bullock), a woman released from prison after serving a sentence for murder, as she re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past and searches for the sister she had to leave behind.
The timing of the film’s release strikes a distinctive parallel between Ruth’s journey — reemerging into society— and that of the rest of the world, as people around the globe struggle to readjust to a post-quarantine life. But rather than coming out of a pandemic, Ruth is forced to grapple with the consequences of her own past.
“I think the movie is very important to be told nowadays because people are feeling more and more lonely,” said Ferres. “The loneliness and despair, and [wanting] to find comfort and acceptance in society is what happens for a lot of people.”
“We all know what it’s like to miss someone at the moment,” added actress Aisling Franciosi, who plays Katie Malcolm in the film. “A lot of us haven’t seen family or friends that we deeply care about in 18 months, close to two years. I think it’ll really resonate with people, this feeling of just needing to hold someone again that you love dearly. There’s a bit of a parallel in that.”
At only her second red carpet premiere in her career, cast member Emma Nelson gushed over her A-list costars.
“I grew up watching Sandy in movies,” the actress said of Bullock. “I think it’s something that’s like, ‘Oh, it’s an actor’s dream.’ But with someone like Sandy, she elevates the people around her, which sounds like a little bit of a cornball thing to say, but it is really true. Not only did she make me feel insanely welcome and comfortable, even though this is my second film ever, I felt like I belonged where I was.”
She also praised the COVID-19 safety and compliance of the production, having shot the film at the height of the pandemic in 2020. “We’ve been so safe, it was so impressive,” said Nelson. “When we got back to filming in 2020, the amount of caution that was put in to avoid anybody getting sick — it worked. So many other productions were getting shut down all around us and we were all keeping our N-95s and our face shields on and our gloves and everything. It’s just the level of professionalism that I would expect from these people.”
Actor and cast member Jon Bernthal was also in attendance, recently coming off the premiere of Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard.
“I try to work with people that inspire me and that I believe in and that I’m dying to work with,” Bernthal said. “With folks like Sandy and Nora — I saw System Crasher, I fell in love with that film — that’s how it is. It’s all about who I can learn the most from.”
As for how audiences will receive the film, Bullock believes that Ruth’s story has something to reveal in all of us as they understand the reasons behind her violent crime. “What kind of person would do what Ruth Slater did?” the star mused. “And would you do the same thing if you were in her position? And most people would be like ‘No, no, no, I wouldn’t.’ And I’m like, ‘Watch the whole film and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.’”
The Unforgivable starts streaming on Netflix Dec. 10.