Film Review: “Unsane” (2018) ★★★★


The combination of doctors and pharmaceutical companies is a dangerous one. Now, add to that also the perpetually greedy insurance companies, the result, undoubtedly, is much more devastating than an eruption of a sleeping volcano. After that, also consider adding here stalking, ignorance and inaction of the police, or lack of interest in the actual case. You might question what stalking has to do with doctors, medicine or insurance companies. Frankly speaking, you have a good reason to doubt. All of this might have nothing to do with one person pursuing a vicious goal. Yet, once you watch “Unsane” by Steven Soderbergh, which by the way is entirely shot on an iPhone,  you will get all the necessary answers to connect all the dots in this story.

Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) lives a common life and tries to keep a low profile while dealing with her depression and anxiety. She visits her counselor (Myra Lucretia Taylor) at Highland Creek Behaviour Facility, which is a bridge she has to cross to open up and talk about her fears. She might be suicidal, or some other reason might stop her from enjoying her life. The counselor patiently listens to whatever Sawyer has to share. Then, she asks Sawyer to sign a follow-up paper, which will help her better assess the patient’s condition for her future visits. Without knowing, Sawyer signs a paper in which she admits to putting herself into a mental facility for one day. Unfortunately for her, this stay can be extended if the doctor decides she carries potential danger for herself as well as for other people.

A nightmare begins for Sawyer. She obviously cannot believe that she will be locked up in such a facility just like that, where she is forced to take strange medicine which might make her condition worse. She demands to make a phone call, and when allowed to make one, she immediately calls 911, hoping to be rescued from the hospital in the next twenty minutes. It’s 9:24 PM. She is impatiently waiting for the police to arrive. Then, it’s 12:35 AM. She realizes that no one is coming. Sawyer still cherishes a tiny bit of hope that she might find a way out of this trouble which, she thinks, she has accidentally put herself into. The situation becomes alarming when she realizes that the nurse named George Shaw (Joshua Leonard) is the person who has been stalking her. Now, she has no doubt that he is the reason for her being put into a mental hospital.

It’s hard to tell whether her guess is correct or not. Sawyer seems to have mental instability issues she has been struggling with. Her mate Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharoah) reveals to her that Highland Creek Facility is a place that takes advantage of their patients, putting them into the hospital in order to make a profit using their insurance money. Their goal is to keep their patients sick until all the funds allocated to the patient are used. Only when the insurance company has no more funding to provide, the patients ‘miraculously’ recover and are released from the hospital. Sawyer Valentini will have to deal with a few big issues in order for her to figure out whether she is sane or insane. At the same time, she has to deal with her stalker, which, we know is not something she has made up.

Shot on an iPhone entirely, “Unsane” delivers a new cinematic experience where the viewer will experience a newly invented technique that turns the cinema we known into something completely stranger. It is refreshing to see the camera angles, cinematography or even actors in this new way, where they look much more real than in any other film they have previously appeared. I believe, this will create a precedent for many filmmakers in the future, who might like the idea of saving a lot of money by making films on their phones and getting mind-blowing results.

Claire Foy as Sawyer Valentini is the best choice ever. She managed to grasp every aspect of her character, letting us discover Sawyer from so many perspectives. You should not expect anything sane about her story, as, by the time we meet Sawyer, she has already been through a long, turbulent journey through her life that has caused her mental instability. All that background information has enabled Foy to analyze the character and, perhaps, be well prepared to deliver her insanity and portray the roller-coaster of emotions. All of that is quite impressive. Thanks to Foy’s brilliant performance, this film is a hell of a ride with so many nail-biting scenes and an ending that could have taken us in any possible direction.

In conclusion, “Unsane” is a modern horror movie about stalking, being locked in a mental hospital and about the abuse of medicine given to the patients. On top of that, tackling the subject of stalking is a brilliant way to combine the major issues of our society in one movie where we can be horrified of the possible consequences. There are many things one can take away from Soderbergh’s “Unsane” but the most important one of them is an advice to be careful regarding what you tell to your doctor. After all, it is not the patients that some doctors care about but the money those people can bring to them.


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