Unsane (2018)

If there’s one notion that Unsane stresses the most during its near-100 minute run, it’s to read the fine print before crossing any T’s or dotting any I’s.  We’ve all been guilty of skimming through the terms and conditions of any number of documents, and it’s in this haste of agreeing to what’s put in front of us that acts as the downfall for Unsane‘s tenacious heroine, Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy).

Another experimental outing from director Steven Soderbergh, Unsane‘s main hook (gimmick?) is that it was filmed entirely with an iPhone (the 7 Plus model, to be entirely accurate), and whilst that aspect itself is interesting – and the surprising quality of the film proves the vast possibilities of filming techniques – the Jonathan Bernstein/James Greer-written script proves involving enough that it would survive on its own, iPhone filmed or not.

The film wastes little time in setting up its premise, with Sawyer coming off like a no-nonsense business woman who will break balls and hearts if she has to, but still maintaining a sense of heart so that we give a shit when she’s trapped in her unwanted predicament.  Having confessed to a therapist that she has contemplated suicide off the back-end of suffering through a 2-year long stalking situation, Sawyer unknowingly signs her life away to be involuntarily held in a psychiatric ward for a 7-day period.

It’s a terrifying situation, especially when her stalker (a very effective Joshua Leonard) shows up as one of the ward nurses, and whilst there isn’t too much that transpires on-screen that we haven’t seen before, it’s all handled so tightly and claustrophobically that the usual beats appear fresh.  The iPhone filming technique aids the story immensely in that the hand-held feeling that is occasionally implemented adds a grittiness to the frames that enhance the feeling of helplessness Sawyer experiences at the hands of hospital staff who refuse to believe her.

Whilst it’s unlikely the general masses will flock to Unsane – opening against Avengers won’t help it in the slightest – fans of experimentive cinema and quality thrillers would best be doing themselves a favour by seeking it out, if not for anything other than Foy’s deeply devoted performance, with the regal star of The Crown effortlessly ditching her poised persona for a frantic, chaotic turn that elevates this unsettling chiller above its simplicities.

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