Sawyer Valentini relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania to escape from the man who’s been stalking her for the last two years. While consulting with a therapist, Valentini unwittingly signs in for a voluntary 24-hour commitment to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center. Her stay at the facility soon gets extended when doctors and nurses begin to question her sanity. Sawyer now believes that one of the staffers is her stalker – and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and fight her way out.
It’s no doubt been a few years since Steven Soderbergh announced to the world that he was retiring from filmmaking, boldly stating that “movies don’t matter anymore.” And now it’s been less than a year since he ‘un-retired’ from filmmaking with his lesser-known crime thriller, ‘Logan Lucky.’ Steven Soderbergh’s threatened retirement sounds like a major waste, except that it’s not to be taken seriously at all. Unsane was actually shot on an iPhone, and it truly does feel like it is the work of a man undecided on his retirement. It plenty rough around the edges, with lightning-quick images, leaving the whole thing feeling pretty like his heart just wasn’t into it. Unsane invoked plenty of disgust, suspense, thrills, and confusion, but in fairness, I feel that’s more like a good thing because it’s something that movies rarely do these days.
Sawyer, who is played by Claire Foy, has recently moved to Pennsylvania from her home state of Massachusetts to escape a menacing stalker. After she visits with a local psychiatrist and begins to admit to feelings of suicide now and then, she’s given a piece of paper to sign and (stupidly), without ever reading it, discovers that she has just voluntarily committed herself to a 24-hour observation in a psychiatric hospital. The observation of course quickly becomes an involuntary week-long incarceration after she tries telling them this is not what she signed up for and promptly slugs one of the hospital staff members in the face. Soon after, Sawyer finds that her psychotic tormentor from Boston shockingly employed by the hospital.
I believe the movie is rated R for a reason, and just as a head’s up for the family thinking about seeing this, I would not recommend that. There’s a lot of mature language in here, and sexual innuendos and abuse, with scenes of drug abuse. The film also seems to be playing around with mental illness for pure thrills, so that’s why many found it so disgusting during some parts. Sawyer has a very traumatic past, and it’s her candor about what she has dealt with on a daily basis that landed her in the asylum, to begin with, but the response by the staff is largely one of indifference – un-needed prescriptions and platitudes quickly take the place of deeper and more substantial investigation into her traumatic past. Not only are her more immediate claims concerning the asylum dismissed, but their root causes and the events that initially drove her to seek help are also never even investigated, metaphorically and literally reducing another woman’s feelings to sensationalistic hysteria.
I think this is probably the closest that the filmmaker has ever delved into horror, and his aptitude for building tension, and his sensitivity to characters too often defined by the world’s perception of them, has only appreciated with time, making it add up to something more than the component parts of any particular genre. Overall, the film was a good performance, and one that was no doubt uncomfortable for Foy to play, but one in which she ensured that Sawyer is neither dismissible as a deluded and hysterical patient, or reduced to a whimpering victim who requires a man to rescue her. She is horribly wronged. She is bruised and battered, both emotionally and physically. But she is never completely broken. “There is no path to happiness from here,” Sawyer says at one point. But there might be, whatever the cost, be a path to justice.
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Studio: Universal Pictures
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins
MPAA Rated: R
Directors: Steven Soderbergh
Reviewed by: Sarah Hopkins
Our Rating: 3.0 /5
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