Steven Soderbergh is one of the most interesting directors working today. I can say that now that he is officially back with more than one film. He always appears to be looking forward and taking on projects that stretch him as a film maker. After the traditional mid budget Logan Lucky he was fully immersed in an interactive project that included a TV series an app and online content. it should therefore have come as no surprise to find that with his latest film he has taken another left turn with Unsane. The film was shot using an IPhone 7, on a minimal budget and pretty much in secret last year.
Moving to a new location and restarting your life is a daunting task. For Sawyer there is the added complication of being forced to do so. She was the subject of a prolonged campaign of stalking which led to her moving 450 miles to a new town to try to start again. sawyer is suffering from issues after her ordeal and she pictures her stalker almost everywhere she goes. She seeks medical help at a local clinic. After a productive conversation with a therapist she signs some routine forms that actually are voluntary admission forms. Sawyer is committed to the mental health facility for a minimum of seven days for observation. As her fragile mental state deteriorates she continues to see her stalker. The question is, what is the reality of the situation.
Seen as a gimmick initially, the use of mobile phones to create feature films has come a long way. The rather flat and limiting lenses on the phone create a very unique look to the film. it allows for the starkness of the scenes to be fully shown on screen. There is not a lot of colour on screen. The tones of the colour palate are all muted as is the case in a medical facility. There are number of yellow and beige tones which makes for a rather oppressive atmosphere as it mirrors the patient’s state of mind as well. Using this in conjunction with the limitations of the iPhone camera a zoom facilities leads to a very unsettling visual that reinforces the rather unreal situation that sawyer finds herself.
The character of Sawyer is perfectly described in the opening sequence. we first meet her at her work as she is on the phone to a client. He is forthright and confident in her abilities. She virtually berates the customer for not taking her advice which as she says is based on her interpretation of the facts. She hangs up having given them the ultimatum of taking her advice or going elsewhere. Almost immediately we see this is just a front as she thinks she sees her stalker followed closely by an awkward encounter with her boss. This reveals the fragility of her mind-set. Later in the film the very same technique she used to convince a customer is used against her as she is denied release from the medical facility. It is a neat reverse and a commentary on the way that people can be manipulated with no more than words and a forceful personality.
Claire Foy gives a performance that will open a few avenues for her. Her role her is a far removed from that of Queen Elizabeth as is possible to get. Here she is like an animal that is constantly being stalked. She never seems at ease and always looking over her shoulder. Her temperament changes with the situation. rather than staying calm and just trying to ride out the time she has to spend in the facility she is prone to outburst involving physical and mental attacks. It makes her totally unpredictable and as such keeps the audience invested in the story.
The story itself works for the most part. Only when it comes to the final act and the tying together of the various plot threads does it lose its way a bit. It seems a bit too neat and convenient. This doesn’t fully distract from the film as there is a small scene at the end that pulls it all back together rather nicely.