Film Review: Unsane – 7/10

‘Love is giving yourself over to what someone else wants…’

Steven Soderbergh has had an incredibly eclectic directorial career. Ocean’s Eleven and its various sequels are my own personal highlights, but there are plenty of advocates for Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and Sex, Lies and Videotape. Elsewhere, he has tackled sci-fi (Solaris), biopic (Che) and whatever Magic Mike is, but one subject matter he has returned to again and again is mental health and the health system generally – Contagion, Schizopolis and Unsane all tackle this subject one way or another, and it is the latter of those three that we concern ourselves with today. Now, one could argue that Soderbergh has never made a horror film, but the first half of Unsane is as horrifying as any film out there…

When Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) goes for a therapy session and signs a form, she doesn’t realise that she is agreeing to be ‘voluntarily’ committed to a secure facility. This nightmarish concept is chilling enough and a film just about that could’ve been a minor masterpiece. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie focuses on the fact that Sawyer’s stalker David (Joshua Leonard) is working at the facility in which she is incarcerated. If that feels like more of a boilerplate thriller plotline, that’s because it is.

I’ve always found the idea of being wrongfully imprisoned to be utterly terrifying, and Foy sells the early moments of Unsane that focus on this concept. Claustrophobic and gut-wrenching, I found the opening thirty minutes genuinely difficult to watch. Interestingly, Soderbergh’s follow-up to Sex, Lies and Videotape was a biopic about German author Franz Kafka, and that figures, because the ordeal that Sawyer finds herself in is very Kafkaesque. The film unravels in the third act as the scratchy quality (everything was shot low budget, mostly on an iPhone) begins to grate a little bit, and the plot becomes ever more implausible. The ending isn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t live up to the promise demonstrated at the movie’s beginning.

Unsane is half a great movie and half a movie that is just okay. Still worth seeking out for fans of Soderbergh or for those interested in the subject matter. It also features a Matt Damon cameo and a pleasingly unhinged turn from the usually angelic Juno Temple that is worth the entrance fee alone.