Nerdlocker Movie Review: Unsane


Steven Soderbergh is at a point in his career where he can try whatever random, batshit crazy idea he can come up with. Not only does he always find support for his projects but they almost always end up being well crafted, uniquely structured, highly entertaining pieces of cinema. Unsane was filmed entirely with an iPhone and somehow it ended up being a beautifully captured, taut horror-ish psychological thriller. It would seem his skill knows no bounds.

Since this was filmed on a phone the limits of color pallets might otherwise obstruct the story but instead through a bit of creativity it allowed for more realistic tones of dimly lit rooms and hallways, overly saturated, windowless rooms resembling cages more than sanctuaries. Instead of hindering, this limitation gave the environment of a suspicious mental health facility a little more of an unnerving feel. This dark imbalance of colors also makes the audience’s doubts of the main character’s sanity all the more heightened. Is she crazy or not?

Claire Foy stars as Sawyer who’s earnest desire for independence has alienated her from anyone who could help as she falls into a pit of desperation. As her paranoia rises she seeks the help of a professional to help her calm her suspicions that the stalker she moved cities to get away from has in fact followed her. Unwittingly Sawyer signs a paper giving the facility she sought help from to legally detain her for up to 24 hours. More than the possibility of facing her stalker again she must now battle the corruption of mental health policy that essentially forces people into imprisonment until their health insurance runs out and then voila… you’re cured! The very source she needed help from is the breeding ground allowing for her alleged stalker the ability he needs to manipulate and ultimately decide her fate. Again and again however her sanity is brought into question. Is she unstable or is there really someone altering the facts to keep her contained?

Unsane is a psychological head trip that reveals answers and brings about new ones at a constant rate. This causes the audience to feel dizzy at times, unsure what to believe. She is surrounded by unstable mental patients and her interactions with them often end poorly only lengthening her stay at this asylum from hell. The longer she’s trapped the more her perceived sanity begins to slip into a world of hallucinogenic drug treatments and uncomfortable confrontations with her supposed stalker.

Ultimately her outcome will be determined by her decision to give in to her perceived delusions or to fight against them despite everything working against her. Her inner strength is something she’s just becoming acquainted with and it’s becoming stronger by the day. Does she risk attacking this man everyone around her says isn’t her stalker or does she rest in her “knowledge” that her concept of reality is in check.

My favorite part of this film is the idea that by the end the question of is she or not isn’t exactly a priority to her survival and therefore the answer is suggested but never outright revealed. It shows that despite her sanity being intact and a stalker really pursues her doesn’t mean his presence isn’t actually affecting her perception of reality. Why can’t both scenarios be true?

I think that is the most horrific aspect to Unsane, this idea that if she’s right and fights off her assailant things will go back to normal and yet they may not. Just because he can die doesn’t mean her hallucinations and paranoia will subside. Her question of is he following me simply becomes is he dead? Was he ever alive? How can no one in her life, alienated or not, have never heard about her stalker? That’s a big secret to keep under wraps. So as much is revealed there still lies the doubt of her overall stability and ability to function in everyday society. This doubt may end up costing a life.

Rated R For: disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references
Runtime: 97 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Amy Irving, Jay Pharoah
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard