Warning: Minor spoilers throughout:
Sawyer Valentini, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Claire Foy (The Crown), has recently moved from Boston to Pennsylvania in an attempt to put a traumatic portion of her past behind her. The background information on Claire starts to build throughout the opening minutes of the film. She works at a bank as a financial analyst – has a boss (Marc Kudisch) who is willing to forget about his marriage if she’s interested in a little fun, and her co-workers want to get to know her, but the feeling doesn’t come across as mutual. Later that evening, Claire has a date with a man she’s connected with on-line. She tells the relative stranger that the two of them can have fun that evening, but afterward, he’s not to contact her again. No sooner does she take the man back to her apartment, than she becomes extremely agitated and locks herself in the bathroom.
Claire recognizes that the problems she’s struggled to deal with, are still very much on the forefront of her mind. In order to quell her anxieties, which were not of her own making as the viewer will come to learn, she seeks out help at Highland Creek Behavioral Center. As it turns out, Claire was the victim of a stalker, David Strine (Joshua Leonard), who developed a deep abiding love for Claire, that at no point was reciprocated. No matter how many times Claire ignored David’s advances, text messages, and proclamations of love, his obsession with her did not waver.
While talking with a counselor (Myra Lucretia Taylor), she admits that on occasion, due to the detrimental effect David had on her life, she has thought about committing suicide, but has never gone so far as to plan out how she would take her life. Claire has an interest in meeting with the counselor for future sessions. She is asked by the counselor to sign papers, which she does, thinking it is routine in order to set up weekly appointments. What Claire doesn’t know, is that she has voluntarily committed herself to the hospital as a suicide risk; having done so, she will need to remain under observation for 24 hours.
A one day confinement turns into seven, after Claire makes a series of poor choices. For example, the stress she is under, causes her to physically strike a hospital employee (Zach Cherry). Claire, understandably, vociferously protests that she is being held against her will, but it does her no good. She is not saying anything new, that countless others in her situation haven’t asserted in the past. Refusing to accept her situation, Claire does everything she can to expedite her being able to leave the hospital as quickly as possible. She contacts the police, who once they view the paperwork she signed, walk away, not even bothering to see how she’s doing. The lead doctor at the facility, Dr. Hawthorne (Gibson Frazier), makes more time for phone calls, than he does his patients; when he does speak to Claire, he points to her violent actions since being brought in for observation. Furthermore, Violet, played by BAFTA winner Juno Temple (Dirty John), the girl who resides in the bed next to Claire’s has seemingly had it in for her since the moment Claire was brought into the hospital. The only other patient who appears to have all their wits about them, and attempts to be nice to Claire, is Nate, played by Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live). He claims he’s at the hospital to get help for his Opioid addiction, but as the viewer will learn, there is more to his being there, than he initially lets on.
Claire contacts her mother Angela, played by Oscar nominee Amy Irving (Crossing Delancey), who gets to work right away, trying to free her. Angela is met with excuses, and a plastered smile, when she meets with the hospital’s corporate liaison, Ashley Brighterhouse (Aimee Mullins), who assures her that everything about Highland Creek is above board. The lawyer (Joseph Reidy) Angela speaks with on Claire’s behalf, tells her the things she wants to hear, but provides no timeline for Claire’s release, before hanging up the phone on her without offering a goodbye.
Unbeknownst to her mother, the timing of Claire’s release might be of the utmost importance, and not just because she’s being held against her will. While in line for her medication, Claire flips out, when she believes she sees, none other than her stalker, David. Claire can’t believe that he not only violated the restraining order she had against him, but left Boston and followed her to Pennsylvania. Additionally, that his desire to be with her, prompted him to get a job at the hospital; not just any job, but one in which he gets to dispense potent medication to patients. David, if that is indeed who he is, denies Claire’s allegations, and insists he has never seen her before. The head nurse, Nurse Boles (Polly McKie), and the other members of staff, dismiss Claire’s ranting; they’ve come to know their co-worker George as a good employee and nice person. Is Claire right? Has David gone through the trouble of a move and getting a new job, just for a chance to be in Claire’s presence again?
“Unsane” premiered on February 21, 2018 at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film was directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic). Furthermore, the cinematography for the movie was done by Soderbergh under the name Peter Andrews; he took the first two names of his father; Soderbergh also edited the film, taking his mother’s maiden name, Mary Ann Bernard, as his pseudonym. The screenplay for the film was co-written by Jonathan Bernstein (The Spy Next Door), and James Greer (Max Keeble’s Big Move). Parts horror, mystery, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 98 minutes. Soderbergh shot the film over the course of 10 days, and filmed it entirely on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus in the 4K video recording option using the Filmic Pro app. Soderbergh’s stylistic choices; Foy’s acting; as well as the acting of the rest of the cast, who were uniformly good; and the question of Claire’s sanity, kept me interested from start to finish.