UNSANE – an Alternative Lens review

Starring: Claire Foy (The Crown), Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Jay Pharaoh (Saturday Night Live), Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises), Amy Irving (Carrie)

Director: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11)

Writers: Jonathan Bernstein & James Greer (The Spy Next Door)

Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release Date: 23 March (US, UK)

Well, Steven Soderbergh’s retirement didn’t last long, but he’s certainly come back with a slightly different mindset. Instead of going through the usual studio rigmarole, he’s taken the Robert Rodriguez way and has instead been homegrowing his own projects. His first film back, last year’s Logan Lucky, was an excellent film but didn’t manage to find a large audience despite its star power. For his next effort, Soderbergh has thought even smaller and taken on the new indie filmmaker trend: shooting the entire movie on a smart phone. However, Unsane is far from being defined by this production gimmick.


Going into Unsane as blind as possible is the best course of action; the trailers don’t reveal the big mysteries, but they are still best avoided. Most easily surmised as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Fatal Attraction”, the story isn’t especially original in its core components but does create a fantastic sense of dread and unease. From the moment Sawyer (Foy) senses something is wrong about her predicament, the tension is tighter and only grows more uncomfortable as her sanity continues to be pushed to the limit. The film also takes the opportunity to comment upon the dark underbelly of the health industry in topical fashion, making the story’s hellish environment seem that much more possible.

Claire Foy ably carries the film as Sawyer, balancing her performance well enough that she can never be a fully trustworthy narrator whilst remaining sympathetic. Her character’s actions are somewhat questionable (I mean, how many fits does she have to pull for she realises it’s only making her situation worse), but otherwise it’s a captivating and solid role to break her out of her current prim-and-proper image. Jay Pharoah also gives a surprising dramatic turn as Sawyer’s only ally in her predicament, but the real MVP here is Joshua Leonard. I can’t say too much about his role, but he threatens to steal the movie from right under Foy.

Unsane is far from a gimmick film, using its DIY production aesthetic more for efficiency’s sake than for attention. It’s a dark and sickening experience that may leave you feeling as distressed as its protagonist, and for this kind of film that’s a great feeling to leave with.



Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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