Movie #86 2021: Unsane (2018)

Well that was an extremely disturbing episode of The Office…

Starring Her Majesty the Queen herself, Claire Foy, and directed by none other than Steven Soderbergh, Unsane is a pure, out and out thriller… but not of epic proportions. Filmed entirely using the iPhone 8, it tells the story of a woman named Sawyer (Foy) who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Though she’s certain she’s not insane (and the audience are led to believe the same), things slowly become more blurred. The question here is “Is she or isn’t she?” Sawyer attempts many crazy things in order to get herself released, until one day, she’s forced to confront the man she’s convinced is obsessed with her.

Again, what a strange episode of The Office! Seriously though, it’s kind of cool how this entire movie was shot on an iPhone considering the picture quality and the depth of some of the shots. On the other hand… it looks a little bit crappy at times, especially when a scene is almost entirely filmed as one static shot. Nevertheless, its overall effectiveness is never hindered, and the shaky, often hand held cell phone recording only adds to the sense of mania and imbalance.

I’d not seen Claire Foy in anything noteworthy other than The Crown before this (as you can probably tell by me labelling her Queen Elizabeth II above) but I’m glad Unsane highlights how good she is. Though her generic American accent has a couple of blips here and there, the panic and desperation in her eyes is so convincing that I believed every look she gave in this. Sadly however, this film isn’t exactly noteworthy, so I really hope she’s back on the big screen in some sort of big blockbuster soon because wasting her talent would be sinful.

If an anxiety-inducing panic attack is what you’re after, this is your movie. Whilst the soundtrack and the cold visuals are really effective, it left me feeling like there was no sense of reprieve for the full ninety minutes and I was glad to see it end. That sounds like a criticism, but one gets the sense that Soderbergh was aiming for that the whole time, and by that logic, he nails it.

What this film does well is call everything we know about what makes someone “insane” into question, presenting a mind-bending argument and forcing you to question everything that’s going on. Where it fails is by making the characters seem less than human – it’s almost as if they have no background, and even the main character of Sawyer has relatively little information surrounding her. I mean, all we really know is that she has a love/hate relationship with her mother and she has a steady job. That’s it. It’s because of this that you don’t tend care enough about anyone in the film, therefore ensuring that it falls a little flat on the whole.

Although this is undeniably an outstanding performance from Foy, for such a short movie it sure does drag on. An interesting feat technologically, but it ultimately falls short in its attempt to be a well-rounded story.

Unsane is available to stream on 4 on Demand (for a limited time!) in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Rating: ½

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