Stephen Soderberg’s second feature after his hiatus is a psychological thriller that is at once insightful and joyously silly. Claire Foy plays Sawyer Valentini, a stalking survivor who seeks counselling at a mental health clinic. After a quick consultation she finds that she has been conned into voluntary confinement, allowing the institution to take advantage of her insurance. She need only last the week to be allowed out. But her mental health is deteriorating and then her stalker shows up as a member of hospital staff…or does he?
Soderberg tends to make movies that keep audiences guessing. Ever since his twisting heist schemes in the Ocean’s trilogy he has shifted genres, changed focus and just generally experiment with narratives to surprise the audience. Unsane is one of his most successful experiments as he effortlessly glides from a passionate critique of the mental health and insurance system in America to a psychological horror film, replete with chases and mind games.
The visual style of the film is oppressive and disorientating. The film was shot using iphones and the effect is eerie. The focus is very flat, but the subjects appear greatly distances from the foreground and background objects, creating a terrible claustrophobia out of large open spaces. The effect makes Sawyer seem crowded by her surroundings whilst also being distant from them. From it’s opening scene, the film is teaching you to doubt our main character and her grasp on reality. They style is experimental and bizzare.
Claire Foy is remarkable in the lead. She allows just enough cracks to show in her brusque manner to assure us that she’s barely holding it together. She’s supported by a remarkable cast, including the terrifying Joshua Leonard as the key figure of Sawyer’s potential delusions, and Jay Pharoah as a much needed voice of stability and reason within the ward. A Soderberg regular also makes a memorable cameo as a police officer advising Sawyer how best to completely change her life to avoid her stalker.
Soderberg seems to have only gained in ability and vision in his absence from the big screen. I can’t wait for whatever is next.
4 / 5