Unsane depicts a week in the life of a young woman, brilliantly played by Claire Foy, who is involuntarily committed to an asylum. Shot entirely on an iPhone, close-up shots and warped perspectives within an isolated setting creates a growing sense of unease and intrigue, leaving the audience wondering where and with whom insanity lies.
Sawyer Valentini has recently moved city in attempt to start afresh after being hounded by a stalker in her previous home. She seeks medical counselling at a remote retreat, but after unwittingly signing self-admittance documents, she is held at the facility against her will. Sawyer’s erratic and aggressive behaviour towards staff and “fellow” patients do nothing to help plead her case of innocence. Things only get worse when she becomes convinced that one of the orderlies is in fact her former stalker.
The cat-and-mouse style conclusion is somewhat predictable, but there are plenty of twists and moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Even when the film ends there is a sense that we don’t fully know whether or not Sawyer herself is sane. It is, of course, difficult to determine narrative reliability when the cast is a room of people declared clinically insane.
With notable support from Juno Temple, and a short appearance from Matt Damon that is almost spoof-like in its brevity (to keep the audience on their toes?), the acting is really excellent. Director Steven Soderbergh succeeds in developing detailed and intense character portraits within the confinements of the facility, whilst also posing moral questions about the treatment of mental health patients and corruption within the American care system.
A thought-provoking, visually immersive and quirky thriller that will definitely remind you to read through all documents before signing them.