Loaded with high suspense against a low-fi experimental feature shot on iPhone 7, Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane is a movie for a psychiatric drive.
‘Unsane’ starts in the woods with an unseen man reciting a monologue about how he met a woman which captivated him to the point of not letting go. The film then rolls to Sawyer (Claire Foy) walking to a city street while being followed, unbeknownst to her, by someone lurking in the bushes. With her past stalking episodes haunting her, she signs up to a support group only to find out that she has been involuntarily placed in a mental institution with strict rules on seclusion. Trapped inside, she confronts her own sanity while being closely watched by her demon, none other than her dreaded stalker (Joshua Leonard) who happens to work at the facility.
If your preference of horror points toward psychosis and suspense, ‘Unsane’ is definitely for you. The low-angled, raw and rustic frames of the shots will give you the intimacy that breaks the bubble of privacy. This feature will definitely take you to the psyche of the stalker and even to the emotional state of the victim. Each scene warrants to sweep your senses and make you scream without consent.
Other characters make me reminisce my own experiences in wards specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Juno Temple’s effective performance as Violet, a patient from the mental institution in the story, is so effective that it has given depth to the setting of the institution. It goes the same with Nate Hoffman (Jay Pharaoh), who is a key to the missing links on insurance scams among mental facilities. Their characters and the stories they tell are all intriguing and undeniably plausible, that they make me recall my visit to Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur, where I encountered people with the same behavior.
Tension builds up scene after scene, keeping the story anchored to Sawyer’s urge to get out. Out of all the scenes, the one that stands out to me is the part where she is locked down in a solitary cell in the basement. She eventually reaches the climax of her fear, trembling and being cornered, but rises up to confront her captor. It is so exciting to watch how the tables would turn. This highly-intense scene made me realize that fight-or-flight response is truly a switch in times of peril. As the prey becomes the hunter, the movie resolves all disputes as it fades to a horrifying close.
Just like how any other psychological thrillers would end, ‘Unsane’ fast-forwards months later and sees our main character on a typically perfect day, still alive and kicking inside a café, distracted by what used to be her demon. Has her stalker come back to her life? Is this her reality now? Sawyer Valentini, an unfortunate victim, stalked, tormented, locked in a mental asylum without consent, drugged, and physically harassed. Did all of these happened to her? Or is she simply ‘Unsane?’