Movie review: UNSANE - We Again Fall Into Madness

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Movie review: UNSANE -  Photo credit:, edition by Amber255 via 

The new work of the eminent director plus the genre of psychological thriller in demand today is an event in the world of big cinema, at least, an intriguing one. And the information that the film, among other things, the director filmed on a mobile phone only enhances the effect.

Probably we know director Steven Soderbergh as the director of  Ocean's Eleven, and now also as the producer of Ocean's Eight. Anyone interested in cinema is likely to know this director from his other great work, such as the Traffic and others. One of his latest horror thrillers is UNSANE (2018), who talks about a mad girl who imagines she is being persecuted by a once terrorized guy. IMDb added this film to its list of 50 best movies of 2018. So, there is UNSANE review. 

Whether shot on an iPhone or just screened on one, Unsane effortlessly flexes Soderbergh’s skill as a storyteller and a technician, injecting the atmosphere and mechanics of a creepy scenario with a substance that deepens and elevates it to the stuff of a harrowing, intimate reality.


What inspired Steven Soderbergh to take on this film: craving for genre diversity, advertising the iPhone 7 or a desire to be in trend and prove that you can also shoot a movie on a mobile phone in the spirit of a teenager riding a bike. About this, the story keeps silence, alas, leaving the viewers and fans of the director to solve this puzzle on their own.

The plot introduces the viewer to the main character, who was not in her free will at a psychiatric clinic, in which she will have to face the greatest fear in her life. Is the horror of the heroine real or is it just her imagination?

Steven Soderberg showed his followers not so much the availability of work on the film without a professional camera, as the opportunity to create without looking at fashion. 

UNSANE, Official Trailer -  Video credit:

The Short Story Of The Movie 

The plot of the film tells of a girl Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), who was the victim of manic love and persecution of a certain David Strine (Joshua Leonard), who was chasing her everywhere.

Deciding to get rid of her pursuer and Stalker, Sawyer decides to start life from scratch - having moved to another city, changing the place of work and the circle of the environment.

It seems that here Sawyer can finally relax, but the ghost of the stalker, flashing again and again somewhere in the crowd, does not give her rest, and the girl turns for the help of the psychiatrist. Taking advantage of the patient's stretched nerves to the limit, doctors persuade Sawyer to stay in the clinic overnight, but the new situation has a bad effect on the girl - she shows aggression and finds herself in captivity of the doctors for another seven days, for her own safety. 

But Sawyer does not feel safe here, because among the hospital staff she sees the same guy who stalked her for two years, penetrates her house, and scrutinizes her every step. But no one believes a girl who is recognized as insane, and she herself is no longer sure where reality is, and where is the play of her sore mind. And now she must alone face her fears because no one helps her. 


50 best movies of 2018.: UNSANE - Photo credit:

The Content Of The Movie 

The filming technique fits perfectly into the concept of a film. It authentically creates the effect of stalker's presence, aggravates the paranoid atmosphere of the surrounding, and the person's isolation from the outside world.

The whole suspense is built around the victim of the pursuer, who is trapped, and from where there is no way out, whether it be the walls of a health institution or the border of the human mind. 

But, unfortunately, true connoisseurs of the genre may not feel complete immersion, since the picture is definitely lacking in dynamics. In addition, the superficial work of the writers clearly goes wrong with the new genre that is clearly noticeable in a number of plot gaps, logical inconsistencies, and a rather trivial finale.


UNSANE review - Photo credit:

And looking at the ridiculous misery of this girl, I was wondering if this was the shocking story of a powerless man in the system? Or is there a more horror movie about maniac here? Or maybe two in one?  The feeling that the film has just exhausted the reserve has not been leaving me - everything is already shown in the cinema in one way or another, so there is a lack of originality in both vision and scenario. Does Steven Soderbergh need to shoot another similar movie? That's what I questioned.

Of course, there is something to worry about the girl and even outrage the hospital's stupidity and brutality against human will.

The film is not about a mystery. The film is about the feelings of the viewer while watching. This growing horror, it seems, is no longer behind the heroine, but it crawls to you from all sides.

The whole movie does not leave you feeling someone's presence behind your back. You gaze into the frame, waiting for that person to slip through, to which you, as the main character, are already completely familiar with. You already by the middle of the movie understand what's what, and you do not solve any riddles. You're just waiting for this nightmare to end for Claire Floy, and with her, you start breathing easier at the end of the movie.


Psychological thriller UNSANE - Photo credit:

It brought so much mystery to the story that I was waiting again for the twist at the finale. Of course, it was - it is accepted in such low-budget films. But not such that would surprise me. Since the film does not explain everything, I interpreted the finale in my way.

The film is again divided into two parts - in one there is intrigue, in the second it is not there. When the maniac is already known, there is only a confrontation between the maniac and the victim.

Steven Soderberg deliberately ignores all the rules and patterns of building psychological thrillers. As if letting the picture in a certain flow from a self-developing story, interesting dialogues, and multi-faceted characters. The main intrigue of the tape is laid exactly there, and this keeps the state of tension to the finale's titles. It makes you think about whether the main character of the tape sees her pursuer David Strine in the flesh, or is it all the fruit of her insane fantasy? 


50 best movies of 2018: UNSANE - Photo credit:

The Personages Of The Movie 

 The heroine of this story Sawyer Valentini had no luck from the beginning. Having survived the death of her beloved father, she searched for herself for a long time before she decided to do something meaningful - such as, by helping sick people. She devoted many days of her life to an old man who was insane - she read to him aloud, entertained - until his death.

David Strine : [narrating] I love it when you wear blue. I mean, I love you in anything. But you wore blue that first time I saw you, so anytime I see you in blue, it reminds me of how I felt at that moment. How I never really knew what being alive was until I saw you. You unlocked something inside me that day, something I didn't even realize was there. And right then, I knew that nothing in my life was ever going to be the same. In that moment, I was transformed permanently. You did that.


The son of the sick man sometimes came to visit him and to secretly admired this girl, selflessly and sincerely giving her care for a dying patient. And when the patient dies, the son took her hand right at the funeral — in order not to let go ever.  He fell in love with her once and forever. He sent flowers bouquets, called, wrote gentle SMS, gave rings and dresses, secretly penetrating in her apartment. 

She liked the attention at first, then it became annoying, and then scared to such the degree that she went to the police. David's obsessive nursing became her nightmare. She fled from her hometown in order to never meet her boyfriend.


Film shot on an iPhone: UNSANE - Photo credit:

 She tries to live in a new way, but it does not go well: working contacts went bad, and even the mother does not believe that all is well. On a date with a random guy from "Tinder" girl haunts a maniac. Without delay, Sawyer goes to a psychologist, and here the most interesting begins: without explanation, except for “it was necessary to watch that you sign,” the girl is placed in a ward with schizophrenics.

From scene to scene, the girl becomes more and more abnormal, obsessed with persecution, aggressive so that at some point you begin to suspect that she must stay in a mental hospital. Then, you start to doubt in the soundness of her mind and skillfully built swings begin. The more they put pressure on Sawyer, the more she gains strength.

Sawyer and her pursuer's personalities are questionable right down to the last scene.

The main pivot of the action is the great game Claire Foy, who, while creating her character, skillfully balances between a girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a maniacal personality, when you suddenly begin to doubt whether she is a criminal.


Claire Foy in psychological thriller UNSANE - Photo credit: 

Stalking is the embodiment of the strongest fears that a girl may have when someone is too aggressive in asking for a phone and releasing greasy compliments because it is impossible to predict what other people have set boundaries for themselves in communication, and where it will stop. Such persecution leaves a psychological trauma, and in UNSANE it is so carefully and subtly played that it causes internal discomfort to the viewer as well.

Along the way, there is also a problem presented that women who talk about harassment are often not believed, considering it to be a figment of the imagination. Sawyer struggles to be heard, no one wants to listen to her.

The Technical Side Of The Movie 

Director Steven Soderberg can be safely called one of the main experimenters of modern cinema, who is always experimenting with the form and content of his creations. One of the main features of this tape is that the entire film is entirely shot on iPhone. Such experiments are far from new, and something like this has already been done in their directorial works by Chan-wook Park, Olivia Wilde, Gary Oldman, and others. 


UNSANE review - Photo credit:

However, if in these cases we were talking about short films, then this film by director Steven Soderbergh is the first example of a full-length film in this format. Moreover, this experiment gave the picture an extremely authorial character.

The film was shot very unusual and at the same time stylish. Extremely unusual angles for filming, an abundance of long shots (without montage), minimal camera movement, an unusual visual tint of the picture, and much more became a real tool in the hands of director Steven Soderbergh, who effectively managed this and created a somewhat paranoid and restless atmosphere of complete anxiety, hopelessness, and madness. This is what feeds the main intrigue of the tape and recreates the atmosphere of stay in a psychiatric hospital.

Separately, I want to mention a very unusual and, for the first time in my memory, a purely electronic soundtrack by the brilliant composer Thomas Newman, which allows you to look at his work from an absolutely unexpected side.

UNSANE - Can Soderbergh Thrill with an iPhone? - Video credit:

The Collective Work of The actors 

Claire Foy, who has become a real discovery after the TV series The Crown, continues to grow as a talented dramatic actress, and in this respect, the image of Sawyer Valentini has become a real gift for her. The character itself turned out to be very ambiguous and complex, and all this allowed Foy to show all the acting skills on the screen. Separate scenes are so impressive played that she amazed me very strongly. Claire Foy works brilliantly in any of the situations suggested by the director.

The cast of the second plane in the film is not the most outstanding, but Claire Foy keeps the overall level at a height.

Joshua Leonard played his best role who seemed to be his character on the screen.

Extremely convincing in the image of a crazy patient was Juno Temple. Separately, I would like to mention Matt Damon, who decorated this film with his participation.


Film shot on an iPhone: UNSANE - Photo credit:

On A Final Note 

As a result, UNSANE is a model of excellent direction and great performance of Claire Foy, but at the same time, it is a standard thriller, taking its place in the middle among a great many similar representatives of the genre. Not frightening - but leaving a residue of the most real paranoia.

The plus for staging, cast, suspense. The minus for scenario work, dynamics.

This spectacle is almost imperceptible, but still fundamentally different from everything we saw in the movie. Before us is actually the beginning of a new era in film making, which no longer needs the film industry.

Perhaps the new Steven Soderberg film perfectly matches the spirit of our time. First, smartphones have already become an integral part of our lives; they are used to shoot the covers of magazines and popular books, so the experiment with a big movie just had to happen. Secondly, harassment is one of the most discussed topics in society, and UNSANE is just a portrait of stalking. We know little about the main character, but the consequences of psychological trauma, the stalking, and the stalker themselves are shown in great detail here.


Movie review: UNSANE - Photo credit:

You can even assume that the personal experience of the viewer will inevitably affect the perception of the film and the level of empathy for the heroine. It is fortunate that this relevance coexists here with Steven Soderbergh’s desire to try new things and achieve the maximum possible effect with a minimum of funds, and as a result, we get one of the best movies of 2018. 

Sawyer Valentini: You say all the right things, David. Or what you think are the right things. Greeting card clichés and romance novel declarations of love. But that's not love. Love is giving yourself over to what someone else wants, even if it goes against everything you believe.


My rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 80/100
Metacritic: 58/100
Critics average: 6.6/100
IMDb: 6.4/10  



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