As someone who’s had a stalker, deciding to watch Stephen Soderbergh’s Unsane alone, late at night, was probably not the brightest decision I’ve ever made. But I was intrigued by this whole “shot on an iPhone” biz, and also curious about how the film would handle my biggest nightmare: being stuck in a hospital ward because the people there think you’re unhinged, when you’re actually perfectly sane.
Okay, okay, maybe “perfectly sane” is stretching it a bit when it comes to describing Sawyer Valenti (Claire Foy), a woman who dropped everything and fled to another state to find a new job and a new place to live in order to escape the man who is stalking her.
Sawyer’s suffering from PTSD and has been imagining seeing her tormentor everywhere. In total despair, she seeks out a support counselor at Highland Creek Behavioral Center to recenter herself — but after signing some papers Sawyer finds she’s unable to leave because she’s unknowingly committed herself to a 7-day stay.
Refusing to cooperate causes her to act violently towards staff and results in a vicious cycle of sedation and restraints. After a fight with fellow patient Violet (Juno Temple), long-time resident Nat (Jay Pharoah) befriends Sawyer and drops some knowledge about how hospitals like this run insurance scams by slippin people self-committal paperwork all the time in order to collect money, and once they money runs out, they release the patients.
So all Sawyer has to do is do what staff tells her, and she’ll be out in seven days. But! Complications arise when her stalker shows up at the hospital as staff, and no one believes her because, clearly, she’s insane.
Although the marketing hints towards the movie asking you over and over if Sawyer is imagining her stalker or not, Soderbergh reveals pretty quickly that the man she thinks is her stalker is actually there and continuing to torment her.
That’s when you have to believe that not only is the hospital running an insurance scam, but also that its Director and staff are all completely inept. Because not only have they hired a man with a fake name to work with patients and dispense medication, they also brush aside his “mistake” at giving Sawyer a psychostimulant drug with barely any reprimand.
Soderbergh also flips the story from thriller to over-the-top horror once the stalker (Joshua Leonard) reveals to Sawyer that she’s correctly identified him, which honestly worked pretty well. Everything about David Strine’s behavior is pretty spot-on, re: how a stalker behaves and rationalizes his “love” for his victim, and I appreciate how the film ramped up Misery-style obsession in its last half.
I also didn’t hate the “filmed on an iPhone” thing as much as everyone else seems to: I thought it actually added a touch of claustrophobia and realism that helped draw me in.
The things that didn’t work as well for me include an appearance by Matt Damon as, apparently, a stalker security expert — that shit took me right OUT of the film; and the six-months later ending, which I won’t spoil for you but auuuggggh. I didn’t like it. At all.
Overall, Unsane is pretty decent and I think it’s worth watching; it’s just not gonna blow anyone’s mind.