Quick Hit: Mesmerizing and convincing at times, this thriller also lacks something.
To shoot an entire film on an I-phone is impressive. To do that in a way that convinces a studio and a production company to pick it up and put it in theaters is even more impressive. Steven Soderbergh accomplished that task with Unsane, a thriller about a woman who finds herself in a mental hospital against her will.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) goes to see a therapist because she sometimes has thoughts about hurting herself. She is sent for an evaluation and then suddenly she is surrendering her phone and being asked to turn in her clothes. They then tell her that she is being kept for a short period of time for observation. She wants to be let go, but she signed the forms. Then she ends up violent with an orderly and doctor decides she maybe needs to stay a little longer. It turns out (through conversation) that this is a common place insurance scam mental hospitals run. Who better to take advantage of than those that no one believes right?
Mental health is a fragile topic in movies. Sometimes (and too often) it’s played for laughs like in K-Pax and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Other times, there is a graphic destruction of mental health as someone kills or begins to kill, like My Friend Dahmer or American Psycho. And sometimes, a filmmaker somehow toes the line between the two. That’s the best way that I can describe the mental health that is shown in Unsane. The fellow inmates range from violent to overtly sexual, but for the most part, everyone seems like they’re real people. Foy goes a long way to sell the concept, rarely ever leaving the center of the screen.
The conflict in the story is driven not just by her situation, but also from a past stalker, who has resurfaced in her life, now as an orderly at the hospital that she is interred at. The movie might stretch out a bit too long whether Sawyer is crazy or not, but the best parts in the movie come during the interactions between her and David. And don’t be fooled – there’s quite a bit of payoff for those that will wait until the end.
The biggest issue is probably the pacing. Unsane knows where it’s going, but it takes a long time to get there. The film only runs about 98 minutes, so it’s not the runtime that is the culprit here. The structure of the film is just that there are long periods where not a lot happens as you have to waffle between crazy or not. I enjoyed the film, but it could have been cleaned up. I think some of these pacing issues came from the ambitious I-Phone choice, because it makes it seem so much more real than a normal film often seems. I’m giving it a “B-“ and a round of applause for being daring.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"