In Theatres: 
Mar 23, 2018
Running Time: 
98 minutes

Not unlike Sean Baker’s Tangerine, director Steven Soderbergh elected to forgo the thousands of dollars of camera equipment and film the entirety of his latest film Unsane on three iPhone 7s. The result is a grainy and more intimate film that feels right at home alongside Unsane’s themes of mental illness and stalking. It’s the future of film according to Soderbergh. While I don’t see regular film cameras going away anytime soon, Unsane is a great example of how who’s behind the camera is more important than the camera itself.


Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) sees her stalker David (Joshua Leonard) everywhere she goes. After getting a restraining order against him, she moves to a new city and gets a new job in the hopes of starting a new life without him. In need of someone to talk to, she decides to speak with a therapist at a local mental hospital and is unaware she accidentally signs an agreement to voluntarily check herself into the institution. Despite her pleas, Sawyer is placed under the care of the hospital for the next 24 hours. It’s then that she starts seeing David at the hospital, who has changed his name and gotten a job working the nightshift. With the entire staff thinking she’s crazy, her 24 hour hold turns to seven days as she must figure out how to convince them that she’s truly in trouble.


Unsane feels like a stalker movie because of the intimate filming of the iPhone camera. It gives specific scenes an extra dose of creepiness, especially when you see Foy off in the distance from behind some bushes as she goes about her daily business. It’s not some perfectly framed and in focus shot that most movies alter for that “stalker” angle. The use of the iPhone gives it a genuine uneasiness of being watched from afar. The gimmick of using an iPhone for the entire film fades into the background rather quickly however, and audiences are left with a terrifying story about mental illness.


The first half of the film deals with the troupe of figuring out whether Sawyer really is seeing David everywhere she goes or if it’s all in her head and she really does belong in a mental institution. When she first sees David at the hospital, she slaps him in surprise and disgust, only to find out that it’s just a random nurse who was rushing in the door. As an audience member, you’re tricked into thinking she’s just another mental patient and that maybe the hospital can help her face what’s causing her hallucinations.


The second half reveals that they aren’t hallucinations, but that David really has gotten a job at the hospital and is still infatuated with Sawyer. Things turn from psychological to straight up horror fast as you realize she’s trapped inside the institution with her stalker and is powerless to stop him because no one will believe her. Things only get worse for her if she makes any kind of comotion so he’s able to gain access to her with ease and even alter her meds, which she doesn’t really need in the first place, and no one else bats an eye.


Unsane is a scary window into mental health institutions as they will “voluntarily” admit people and hold them there until the insurance money runs out, at which point they’re magically cured and sent on their way. There have been multiple studies conducted on sane people in insane places, and the results are terrifying. Unsane takes that one step further by putting someone insane inside the hospital but on the other side of door. David is the one who needs help, not Sawyer.


Unsane makes great use of its iPhone filmmaking to craft a horrifying B-movie psychological thriller. The gimmick might get you in the seat, but it’s the great storytelling that will keep you on its edge the whole time.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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