"Unsane": ETF Review

Updated on April 23, 2018

Towing the Line of Sanity...

Unsane is a 2018 pychological thriller from director Steven Soderbergh. This film stars Claire Foy, Juno Temple, Joshua Leonard, and Jay Pharoah, and tells the story of a young woman who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear.

I was first introduced to this film, like many, by it's first trailer. It captured my attention with it's very unique camera style. A style created by the fact that the film was shot entirely with an iPhone. It gives this almost documentary feel and at times can feel as if someone just set up a bunch of little cameras all over this facility and let the whole scenario play out. This is not the first time someone has done a film entirely shot with a phone. It's almost become a kind of low level craze here and there to see what kind of films can be accomplished with just a phone camera. I personally don't see the merit in it.

Sure, if you are low budget film maker and don't have the money to shoot on an expensive rig, ok, that's fine. I can see the choice of using a phone as something that will not only save you money, but create an interesting perspective for your film. But when a director as well known as Soderbergh up and decides to use one to shoot a film, my only question is why? Artistic choice? I mean, I guess, but I don't entirely agree with that reasoning. If you have the means to shoot on something better, why not do that?

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The performances given by both Claire Foy and Joshua Leonard were mesmerizing. Foy conveyed this determination to prove herself sane with such a raw intensity while Leonard creates a man so unhinged by his infatuation that it's hard not to feel your skin crawl as you watch every scene that he infects with his presence. I also want to mention that there is a surprise cameo by an actor that I was not expecting to see in this one. And this isn't the first time that I have seen him appear without warning in a film. I'm starting to wonder if this is going to be a trend with him.

The story presented in this film was very unique. It definitely wasn't something that I had seen before. However, it felt a little bit cluttered in the sense that it collided 2 antagonal forces, both pitting against our protagonist. These two scenarios being the hospital keeping her there against her will for its own financial gain, and her stalker happening to have gotten employment there to get to her.

I just found it a little bit unbelievable, the idea that she chose this place at random, got stuck in this situation, and yet somehow he was able to secure employment there ahead of time and set these events in motion. It would have been one thing if they had showed that he had through some means guided her to this place without her knowing. Or if maybe someone else was in on his scheme.

But despite this, I tried to keep an open mind and a suspension of disbelief. I have to say that the use of the iPhone to shoot this one did allow for some very interesting shots at some very interesting angles. It kind of gave me a visual experience the likes of which I have never really seen before. It somehow made this situation feel more personal.

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The music and audio in the film was great. The lighting suffered a bit from the shooting choices; there were many moments where the whites and yellows were blown out a bit, while the blacks and shadows were very deep and crushing. But I was ok with this. The situation presented in the film was one that can be annoying at times. With our lead character being trapped in this place, surrounded by people who don't believe anything she is saying, while we as the audience go in trusting that she is sane, and are in turn presented with evidence throughout that she is.

It's like standing on the outside of a room with no doors, looking in through a window, and seeing someone we care for about to be murdered , but there is nothing we can do to stop it.

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There were also choices made with the character that rubbed me the wrong way. She is presented with the rules, on what she has to do to get out of this place so many times, but then continues to make choices that will extend her stay there longer and longer. I understand that the filmmakers are using the idea that fear makes you do irrational things. It makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, there is only so much we can take as an audience before a character's irrational decisions become irritating and stressful.

Im gonna give Unsane and very solid B.

This was one that I don't think will be for everybody. It's a strange blend of very different elements from the writing to the behind the scenes choices and it's these choices that create an atmosphere that won't sit well with most of the average movie goers. I think this film was pretty good, I will recommend it to certain audiences, and I do think it can be enjoyed if you love that kind of psychological tension.


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