Steven Soderbergh follows up Logan Lucky with the iPhone-shot Unsane, featuring a great performance from Claire Foy and treads into Me, Too territory.
Unsane will have viewers on the edge of their season as Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t. After being stalked by David Strine for a good two years, Sawyer has relocated from the comforts of Boston to Pennsylvania for a fresh start. Sawyer’s mother, Angela (Amy Irving) isn’t a fan of her moving to an entirely different town. Even as she has an office job in this new town, Sawyer is still having a rough go of it, searching for support groups for those being stalked.
Her search takes her to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center, where Sawyer meets with a therapist for an initial consultation. However, Sawyer responds to questions with answers that would otherwise leave therapists making notes about their clients possibly harming themselves. Next thing Sawyer knows, she ends up signing herself into the impatient ward for 24 hours of observation because she failed to read the fine print.
This is where Sawyer isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t. She’s pretty sure that her stalker, David Strine, is working there under the name of George Shaw (Joshua Leonard). Unfortunately for her (and many women in general), nobody believes her. Convinced that it’s really him, she’s placed even more on edge, leaning to fellow patient Nate (Jay Pharoah) for advice. It doesn’t help that another patient, Violet (Juno Temple), is out to get her. Between her delusions and unwillingness to get along with other patients, Sawyer finds herself staying longer than 24 hours.
Claire Foy is beyond amazing in Unsane, playing a woman who unknowingly checks herself into an impatient ward at a hospital. That said, she delivers a performance that one can’t fully appreciate because it’s all captured on an iPhone. This isn’t to say it’s not comparable to that of Erin Brockovich or Haywire. Both films have strong women at the forefront. Sawyer isn’t any different except that there’s some vulnerability in her character. It’s a compelling performance in any event, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as Foy is a talented actress as proven by her work on The Crown.
The SNL veteran, Jay Pharoah, provides comic relief to some extent. Usually a comic actor, Pharoah does a solid job with handling the dramatic side that his role calls for. His character, Nate, is really the person that Sawyer can confide in. Meanwhile, the only Soderbergh veteran in the film, Amy Irving, brings a lot of emotion to her performance as Angela. When Angela learns that her daughter is hospitalized, she immediately goes into Mom-Mode and does whatever it takes to get Sawyer out.
Visually speaking, the close-ups are a bit much and makes one feel like they’re watching a film that was made for YouTube. This probably wasn’t what Soderbergh or cinematographer Peter Andrews were going for with the film. In the office scenes early on, it’s striking just how much one can tell that it’s shot on a phone. One should only shoot with an iPhone when their production budget isn’t large enough for actual cameras.
Ultimately, Unsane is a film that treads into Me, Too territory. It should be stated that the stalker angle of the film will likely lead people having some discomfort in viewing.
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
SCREENWRITER: Jonathan Bernstein & James Greer
CAST: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving
Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street will release Unsane in theaters on March 23, 2018.