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Movie Review: “Unsane”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.


Theatrical Release: 3/23/2018

Theatrical Release: 3/23/2018


Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is trying to lead a normal life, but having a stalker makes it difficult to do so. She moved to a new city, far away from her friends and family, she got a new job, and she has lunch at a different time everyday. She uprooted her whole life to get away from her stalker and she made her days as irregular as possible to make tracking her down as difficult as possible. Even after doing all this, Sawyer is still paranoid that her stalker is out there watching her. She sees him in places that she should not, so she decides that she needs to talk to a psychiatrist.

Sawyer is depressed and when the psychiatrist asks if she has ever contemplated suicide, Sawyer says the thought has entered her mind. Concerned, the psychiatrist tricks Sawyer into signing herself into a mental institution. She is being held against her will, but the police cannot help since she has signed the documents herself. Her only way out is to spend a week in the facility without incident. That is when she begins seeing her stalker, David (Joshua Leonard), as a new employee at the facility.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

David (+8pts)

The Setup (-5pts)

The Mystery (+2pts)

The Reveal (-6pts)

Claire Foy (+4pts)

iPhone (-3pts)


Pro: David (+8pts)

David was so incredibly creepy in Unsane. He became obsessed with Sawyer after the death of his father, but Sawyer wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. He would text her constantly, send flowers to her work, and leave dresses on her bed while she was home alone and in the shower. When you hear all of the things he has done, you can totally understand Sawyer going crazy, but when you actually see the character, he is even creepier than anticipated.

This character was creepy and Joshua Leonard did a great job of showing that to us. The things he said and did were creepy, sure, but it was the line delivery and the way he looked at Sawyer that brought the character's creepiness to the extreme. Everything came together for this character. The writing and direction made his lines and actions creepy, but Joshua Leonard brought it to another level. This was not a good movie, but David was memorable, and I thought he was the best part of the movie.


Con: The Setup (-5pts)

Going into the movie, the premise made sense. A victim of stalking talked to a psychiatrist and said something that she thought was harmless, but that the psychiatrist took very seriously, so they tricked her into signing herself into an institution. Essentially, that is the setup of the movie, but I thought the execution of that setup was done very poorly. For starters, the setup was drawn out much longer than it should have been, but it was the hospital‘s overall sketchiness that did not work for me. This movie was all about stalking and the trauma it can cause for victims of it. David was awkward and creepy enough, but the filmmakers tried to play off the hospital and its employees as equally sketchy. It really just did not work, because it was too much and not very believable.

Based on the comments that Sawyer made to the psychiatrist, I did not believe that a psychiatrist would go to the extreme of tricking her into signing herself into the institution. That was a pretty extreme measure to take, especially when it does not take a psychiatric degree to tell that Sawyer’s comments were just harmless venting. At the very least, if the psychiatrist was even a little concerned, they should have pressed the comments further to get a better understanding of why Sawyer said what she said. Then, there was the staff of the hospital who would not answer any of Sawyers questions, as they just casually went through the protocol of admitting her into the institution in the most awkward, unreasonable way possible. A story like this only works when the setup is believable and this one was not. Then, with the presence of David, the weird behavior of the hospital staff felt unnecessary.


Pro: The Mystery (+2pts)

Once Sawyer got admitted into the mental institution, she started to see David working there. The movie really played into the uncertainty of whether or not David was actually there. Had he somehow found her, or was Sawyer actually in a damaged psychological state? This was one of the more interesting parts of the movie, because as an audience member, I could have seen it going either way. Naturally, you want to assume the the protagonist is sane. The filmmakers did a pretty decent job of making the audience doubt Sawyer‘s sanity, although the filmmakers did not keep the focus on this for very long.


Con: The Reveal (-6pts)

I was pretty disappointed by the reveal of whether or not David was actually there. I enjoyed the mystery element, and would have been happy with either outcome, but the filmmakers gave away the answer far too soon. The filmmakers spent plenty of screen time setting everything up, then we got about twenty minutes of wondering whether or not David was there, then they just gave it away. David was very creepy in this movie, and the mystery was fun to go along with, but the filmmakers did not give us much time to enjoy that mystery.

The whole thing could have been so much more impactful if we got all of David’s awkwardness and did not get the reveal until the end. This could have given the movie a pretty big finish, as we would have had an entire movie's worth of setup to the mystery, but that was unfortunately not the way they went. Again, I would have been happy with either possibility, but revealing the mystery so soon ruined some of the movie's fun and it made for somewhat of an anti-climactic finish.


Pro: Claire Foy (+4pts)

At times, Claire Foy’s performance felt a little forced and too over-the-top when it did not need to. However, for the most part, Claire Foy did a great job in this movie. The audience’s uncertainty of Sawyer‘s sanity hinged on the ability of the actress playing the Sawyer, and I really could have gone either way with it. The intensity in her eyes during certain scenes and her freak out moments in others led me to believe she could have been insane, but at the same time, she was very relatable which made me think she was not insane at all.

It was this back and forth that made this mystery work, and Claire Foy deserves a lot of credit for that. She had good chemistry with her supporting characters, and she brought real rage and disgust to her scenes with David. This movie needed her to sell David’s creepiness when no other characters could, while also playing into the mystery of her own character's sanity. This movie was not great, but Claire Foy played her part, and she did it well.


Con: iPhone (-3pts)

When I heard that this entire movie was shot on an iPhone—yes, you read that correctly—I was definitely intrigued. I was intrigued by the bold decision when the filmmakers could have easily shot it using film or a digital camera. Unfortunately, it was a visually noticeable “style” and there was no reason for it. The video quality was decent for a home video, but not for a cinematic experience. If audiences go into this movie not knowing about the whole iPhone thing, they will not be able to guess that it was shot on an iPhone, but they will notice the lower video quality.

It basically looked like a found footage film that had no plot justification for it being found footage. It was like Paranormal Activity, if no one ever looked at—or interacted with—the character holding the camera. It was not necessary or justified by the story, yet the filmmakers voluntarily went wutg the lesser video quality anyway. I just had the impression that it was done so that the director could say that he did it. It was an interesting decision, but proved to be a pointless gimmick that resulted in a movie of lower visual quality than we are used to seeing these days. I really hope this does not become a new trend.

Grading Scale






























Grade: C+ (75pts)

Unsane was a movie that had a lot going for it. It was along the same lines as movies like Shutter Island, A Cure for Wellness, and Stonehearst Asylum. By that I mean that the plot had the main character being held against their will in an insane asylum and we must determine if they are actually crazy or not. This movie had a twist, however. In Unsane, the main character’s stalker ended up getting a job—or did he?—in the institution. Not only did the main character have no way out, but she also sounded more crazy every time she claimed that the man was her stalker. The premise of the movie was interesting and the mystery was fun to play along with, but the filmmakers gave away the answer way too soon. By doing this, they figuratively took the air out of the film’s tires, which made for a lackluster ending.

This movie was also shot solely on an iPhone which intrigued me beforehand, but it ended up being nothing more than a pointless gimmick. There was absolutely no reason or benefit to doing this. The only explanation is that the director wanted to be “artsy” and do something unorthodox just for the sake of being different. The picture quality was not great and the reveal came way too soon, but Joshua Leonard as David and Claire Foy as Sawyer were enough balance out some of this movie’s issues, making it a pretty average thriller.

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