There is a lot to love about Steven Soderbergh’s new film Unsane (2018). It’s shot entirely on an iPhone, and it finds interesting ways of shooting the scenes. The cast gives very strong performances, and the story is unsettling, going in directions that are primarily unpredictable. Soderbergh and writers Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer offer commentary on the state of the mental health world and definitely paint it in a scary light.
Unsane is a great entry into Soderbergh’s catalog of films
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is suffering from possible delusions and seeks out counseling. She is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where her greatest fear shows up – or does it? The film plays on what is real, and as Sawyer insists on her sanity, it becomes harder to tell what’s true.
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Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharoah) is a patient in the institution who slowly befriends Sawyer. His story is one of the most interesting aspects of the film, as he is definitely the voice of concern about the state of the system. He tries to keep Sawyer calm, but she is terrified of everything that is happening and keeps lashing out as a result. She is constantly making her situation worse, but it’s hard to blame her as she believes herself to be sane. One of the most intriguing parts of the film is how it toys with reality and perspective, and Sawyer is struggling as much as the audience.
Avoiding spoilers with this film seems challenging, as the plot descriptions seem to leave out a major detail that was definitely in the trailer. However, the film most certainly treats a major aspect as a reveal. It’s not initially stated why Sawyer is upset or why she moved away from her family in Boston. She slowly informs the people around her (and the audience) as to the trouble she ran into back in her hometown. Things were bad and she was trying to get away from her problems, but they seem to follow her. Now she finds herself in a worse situation and desperately wants out of the place she believes she doesn’t belong. Yet, it’s hard to tell if she is crazy or not.
Unsane has a great many interesting things in it and absolutely makes for a great horror story. The camera placements help to emphasize so much of what Sawyer is going through. It’s definitely an achievement for Soderbergh and one that people should catch. Unsane earns the Must See rating.