Review: ‘Unsane’ puts audiences at the centre of the lead’s confusion Special

Posted Mar 23, 2018 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Unsane’ is a movie that tries to keep audiences on their toes with questions of reality in the face of already implausible situations.
Claire Foy stars in  Unsane
Claire Foy stars in 'Unsane'
Bleecker Street
Even when you’re sure of something, if everyone else doubts it, you may begin to distrust your own certainty. Similarly, if you think everyone else is crazy, but they’re all pointing the finger at you, it may be time to look in the mirror. But what if they’re all wrong and you’re right? Not knowing which is correct can be maddening, especially if they are in a position of authority and can exert their will over you. This is the experience of a twenty-something woman in Unsane.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is in a new city, working at a job in which she excels. But she’s lonely and constantly looking over her shoulder for the stalker she moved to escape. She decides to speak to a counselor about her anxiety in order to express herself freely and gain some coping mechanisms. But when Sawyer attempts to leave the clinic, she’s told she’s agreed to be committed to psychiatric care for 24 hours. When a day turns into a week, she begins to wonder if she doesn’t belong on the ward with the other patients. Her fear is then multiplied when she becomes convinced her stalker is now employed at the hospital.
Like most pictures with similar storylines, it leaves audiences to wonder whether what Sawyer is experiencing is truth or delusion. The fact that she’s seen her stalker in other impossible situations definitely calls the validity of her accusations into question. Moreover, her behaviour since entering the clinic indicates she may be in need of more help than she first thought. On the other hand, another patient who seems rational assures Sawyer she’s been mistakenly committed and will be undoubtedly released at the week’s end; and Sawyer’s mom believes her, though none of the lawyers or police they’ve contacted acknowledge the existence of a problem. But seven days in a facility that feels dangerous (in special thanks to her shank-wielding roommate played by Juno Temple) and feeds your paranoia is not going to improve anyone’s mental health — a reality Foy portrays genuinely in this departure from her recurring role of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown.
However, one of the most divisive aspects of this movie is its absurdity. There are several instances that demand the viewer’s suspension of belief — simple and absolute acceptance of everything that is occurring. Without surrendering to the ludicrousness, the picture takes on an impossible and consequently tiresome quality. Yet it feels as if director Steven Soderbergh has purposefully employed the clichés of a thriller in order to stimulate his audiences, for better or worse. After all, only when one truly understands something can they use it in unexpected ways to produce unconventional results.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah