If there’s one word to describe Steven Soderbergh’s film Unsane, it would most definitely be ‘experimental’. It’s like someone had the idea to combine elements from both the psychological thriller genre and experimental filmmaking into one movie. It stars Claire Foy in the lead role of Sawyer Valentini, a woman who suddenly realizes she’s being stalked by her old boyfriend (Joshua Leonard), and decides to ask for help at a mental hospital in order to deal with it. She unintentionally volunteers to stay for the night, and she’s stuck there against her will. With her stalker coming after her, she must now save herself in a place that won’t let her leave, and that’s the premise of Unsane in a nutshell.
One interesting thing to mention in case you didn’t know is the fact that the movie was apparently filmed with an iPhone 7 from start to finish. That’s right! No expensive camera used in the making of this film! It’s all done with a smartphone, which might be a gimmick that people will either like or hate. Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker, is another good example of a film that was also filmed with the help of an iPhone. Steven Soderbergh is a very ambitious filmmaker; he’s known for not just being a director, but also for being the cinematographer of some of his own films such as Contagion, Haywire and Side Effects.
As a psychological thriller, it works. The director is able to capture the intensity of each scene so well, and it’s hard to picture anyone else showcasing it other than Soderbergh. Best of all, it’s well paced. All the scenes feel like they matter in order to further the plot. It’s a pretty short runtime of 98 minutes, but there’s not one scene that feels irrelevant to the rest of the movie.
Claire Foy is absolutely fantastic in the film, and she’s able to give a realistic performance of what it’s like to be trapped in a mental hospital against her will. Her character really allows the audience to care for her as you want her to escape, and you feel her desperation. She has a good way of delivering her dialogue in a natural way without ever feeling like she’s overacting. Joshua Leonard is creepy as hell as the main protagonist’s stalker, but there are times that the audience will understand where he’s coming from. He clearly shows his affection for Sawyer, and it’s sweet at times. But whenever he appears on screen, he’s able to make her lose her mind instantly. Unfortunately, Juno Temple’s talent is completely wasted in this movie as her character Violet, another patient in the institution, is very annoying. She doesn’t do anything for the plot, and there are times I keep asking myself why she’s even in the movie.
Stephen Soderbergh proves once again he has what it takes to be an ambitious filmmaker. With Claire Foy’s amazing performance as Sawyer, a fascinating gimmick, and great pacing, Unsane is an intriguing psychological film about a woman held captive in a mental institution against her will and wanting to escape her crazy stalker. Unsane is undeniably insane with its premise and execution.
Unsane is now playing in theatres.