Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) has hit the reset button on the life she once knew. After a horrific incident of stalking, which ended with her filing a restraining order against her former client David Strine (Joshua Leonard), Sawyer moves to Boston and starts fresh. But the trauma of her past continues to haunt her. She’s delusional and suicidal, and in desperate need of therapy. However, after an initial therapy session, Sawyer soon finds herself involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she can’t escape. And worst of all? Her former stalker, David, is now working as one of the employees.
The effectiveness of UNSANE, for the most part, is due to Soderbergh’s unsettling direction. His use of the iPhone as a camera occasionally adds a layer of visual unease, where everything on screen feels incredibly uncomfortable and very claustrophobic, but this works predominantly in the smaller, secluded sets. Everything there feels ominous and inhuman, almost working as there own character in a way. Unfortunately, the rest of the visuals are ugly more often than they are creepy. There’s only so far an iPhone can take you and some of the shots in this movie are unfathomably bad. An early therapy session in particular is noticeably awful in its visual design.
However, a lot of the film is saved thanks to lead performances from Claire Foy and Joshua Leonard. Foy, fresh off of her run on Netflix’s THE CROWN, gives this her absolute all. The performance is incredibly draining, and it takes a lot to showcase the raw, unsettled emotions her character has to go through, but she nails it from start to finish. A third act breakdown is particularly effective, matched perfectly by a haunting, ominous performance from Leonard, whose villainous stalker is unrelenting in his viciousness. This film has a finale so revolting and unsettling that it’s impossible to see coming. And I loved it.
If sick, twisted thrillers are your thing, UNSANE is for you. This diabolical, unsettling film will shake you and revolt you while retaining its sense of unease and intrigue. Some of the scenes do require you to stretch your believability just a little too far, and at one point one of the characters receives superhuman strength for all of thirty seconds in a hilariously bad murder scene, but low-tier Soderbergh is still good cinema.
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