“Column number two, for life.”
It’s a landmark moment for director Steven Soderbergh, as he releases his first horror movie. Unsane stars Claire Foy and tells the story of Sawyer Valentini as she involuntarily commits herself to a mental institution after seeking therapy for her uneasy feeling after having to move cities to escape a man named David Strine after he has repeatedly stalked her. While stuck in this mental institution, Sawyer demands that she is not crazy. However, her emotional outbursts cause the audience to wonder whether David is real, or only a figment of Sawyer’s imagination.
Unsane is a tough film to watch. This is not due to a boring plot or insufficient characters, but rather the uneasiness you feel when watching this film. While watching this movie, from the moment that it begins, Unsane puts you in a strange position where you have to understand what this woman is going through. And as her story unfolds before the audience members, it only causes you to be more in a tough position as the film’s story makes you question so many twists and turns. During the showing I attended, the older couple in front of me gave out a few yelps and groans as the film takes you on different directions, making you unable to feel comfortable for even a second.
The performance by Foy, who plays our main character, is out of her element after many have gotten used to her as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown. The character of Sawyer is not at all proper or respectful. In fact, she’s rough around the edges, as she states that she will provide sexual gestures in return for a phone call. But nonetheless, Foy does a great job. I am constantly amazed at the caliber of acting that she displays. I am convinced that there may not be a role that she can exquisitely portray. As for the supporting cast members, they are equally unnerving in the portrayals of their characters. Jay Pharoah, who I best know for his portrayal of Jay-Z on Saturday Night Live, lends a hand to this dramatic storytelling, while also adding in sprinkles of comic relief here and there. “Column number two, for life!” I don’t wish to spoil anything, but i will say that the supporting cast is part of the reason that makes Unsane so hard to watch.
As I previously stated, Soderbergh is dipping his foot into the waters of the horror genre. But no, that’s not all. This marks Soderbergh’s first experiment in using an iPhone to film a feature length film. Given the accessibility of smart phones, Unsane, as well as a few films before it, opens the door for amateur filmmakers looking to dabble in the visual art form. Soderbergh’s style of filmmaking in Unsane really lends itself to the overall queasiness that the audience will experience while watching this film. The scenes of the spinning rooms, low camera angles, and insane close-ups, really cause the viewer to experience a claustrophobia that I haven’t experienced, while watching a film, in a long time.
Unsane is not for everyone. Even those who pride themselves on watching experimental or art-type films, I can see that they may also have a hard time with this one. This is a tough movie to watch with all it’s crazy scenes and storylines. But even if you feel a little queasy when viewing this, Unsane is definitely still worth a watch.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire Foy, Jay Pharaoh, Joshua Leonard, Juno Temple, and Amy Irving