Unsane (2018)

Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street
Courtesy of Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street

If you learn only one thing from Unsane let it be to read everything you’re asked to sign. Ever. In detail.

Sawyer Valentini is a terrified woman who sees the stalker she moved to get away from everywhere. She consults a psychologist and is committed against her will to a psych ward. But as events grow deeper and the situation gets direr, the question becomes, where does Sawyer stand mentally, and has she been crazy this whole time?

The film has a lot on its mind, and may not explore its central themes in a focused enough way. It’s about how a mental health institution might commit someone against their will for the purpose of insurance money. It’s also about inherent sexism in the medical community and beyond, and also how authority figures don’t take women seriously. These topics are explored, and there isn’t really a solution suggested, but of course, that could just be trademark Soderbergh nihilism.

Yes, Steven Soderbergh. The once-retired-but-not-really director returns to make the kind of B-movie thriller that Hollywood doesn’t really make anymore, but he makes so well. Forever wanting to try the latest thing, Soderbergh filmed this entire thing on an iPhone. After the first ten minutes or so, once your eyes get used to the way this movie looks, it’s hardly noticeable. There isn’t much, if any shaky cam, and it’s not like someone’s arms get tired and the camera gets unfocused. After a while, it’s filmed like any other movie. Some smartphone “filters” are used, but these are things that are added in post-production all the time.

Claire Foy is a magnetic screen presence, and for the most part, she’s excellent here. Familiar with her work in The Crown it’s impossible not to notice her English accent sneaking into her speech a bit, though. Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah is also very good, but make no mistake it’s Foy’s movie.

Unsane is made in a similar way to Soderbergh’s Side Effects. It feels cold and clinical, but at its heart, it’s a B-movie psychological thriller with some very well executed surprises. If you aren’t on board with the film’s stylistic choices, that could be a dealbreaker. It’s also quite possible this film will just be too depressing for some audiences. Soderbergh isn’t for everyone, but it’s taut and economical and truly does keep you guessing the whole time.

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