Unsane – Review

A “will-they-won’t-they” with a twist.

Filmed on an iPhone, Claire Foy stars as Sawyer Valentini, a woman recently relocated due to being consistently stalked by a rejected lover. The film centers around her accidental but voluntary committal to a psychiatric ward in her new life.

Steven Soderbergh directs another psychological thriller on the back of the more comedic Logan Lucky. He’s long been a hit-and-miss director, and here he hooks onto an interesting premise. Granted, the iPhone technique helps to give a little claustrophobia to the cinematography, but Sean Baker did if first, so there is not much ingenuity in that stylistic decision.

The start of the film holds a great deal of promise, much as the trailer did, giving you a glimpse into what it’s like to be the victim of stalking. There are a huge number of people who have been victims of this psychological anguish, and the shots of Sawyer in her “new” life are always impacted by her spatial awareness, giving a bit of insight into how it must feel to always be on edge. When she is sat alone eating lunch, the focus might be on her, but there is a wider angle which catches the unfocused people passing by.

Once those first 10 minutes pass however, and Sawyer manages to land herself in a psychiatric ward, that interesting perspective passes. You’re immediately entered into a classic psychological thriller whereby Sawyer is trapped in an oppressive environment wondering if she is really seeing her stalker. You get the answer to that particular question far too quickly, making the rest of the film a bit dull.

‘The very end scene pulls you back to the emotional scarring left behind from having been stalked’


There is a decent moment where Sawyer is drugged and her face swirls in two overlapping images, with garbled ramblings and a room left trashed. Beyond this though, there is nothing to impress visually, and despite the fact the film comes in well below two hours, it feels far too long. It’s not gritty enough to tackle the grim realities of psychiatric wards, but isn’t off-the-wall enough to scare you in any other way either.

The final third gets tenser as Sawyer has to fight and scheme her way out of her predicament, but it is really the very end scene which pulls you back to the emotional scarring left behind from having been stalked. Smash those first ten and final five minutes together and you have a decent short film which looks at just how much this impacts a person – it’s a shame Soderbergh chooses to deviate from that theme for so much of the film.

Foy plays the besieged and tired stalker victim well, but has to be put through a more literal torture than is necessary; she ends up having to be meaner to get by than she should, too. She’s not joined by many big names, with Juno Temple playing a slightly unhinged patient on the ward and Jay Pharoah bringing a little levity and cool-headedness to what is a slightly over-cooked middle chunk of the film.

Stalking is a very real problem and the issues associated with it never really go away. When will we get a film which accurately portrays this deep issue? Tied as our lives are to the digital world, now seems a better time than ever to explore it. If you liked the trailer, you probably won’t get quite as much of a buzz watching the whole film.

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