Unsane – 2018
Director Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Starring Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, Amy Irving
Soderbergh’s back, and he’s more accessible this time. The story of a young woman who is on the verge, goes in for a little talk and ends up involuntarily placed in a mental institution has the earmarks of something that could be this century’s …Cuckoo’s Nest. A lesser director would have tried and failed to make this comparison. Instead, what we get for the first hour is a steady progression into what seems to be a woman who might have lost it. This part of the ride is a fun cross section of stuff that could be true madness or a farce that is keeping a sane woman trapped.
That the film begins to lean towards a definite answer so soon before the credits roll gives Soderbergh a lot of weight to carry with iPhone cameras as his lens. He does it in entertaining fashion though, only occasionally presenting a shot that is a mood breaker.
Thank goodness the retirement didn’t last. I will take a Soderbergh trying to inject life into his film making process over the processed cheese of most other directors.
For her part, Foy is entirely on her game. Her Sawyer Valentini is given the full breadth of someone who’s been pushed a little too far. She wasn’t enjoying life all that much, sure. It didn’t mean she needed to have drama injected into it, however it happens. It’s entertaining to see the ways her mind works within each situation without the severity that most actresses would feel tempted to inject. I mean, try to picture Julianne Moore or even Natalie Portman in this role. The movie would be a massacre.
Another great addition to the story is Pharoah, as Nate. Whether he is an inmate with real problems or a canary in the coal mine, his is a great character that stands out for his decency, if anything.
Leonard takes the canvas he’s given and really works the abstract end of it. As he’s pressed for more detail work, he performs admirably, even if the script lets him down a little by this point.
Which is not to say the movie fails in the last act. Let’s say it works as my mind starts to wander in multiple directions. Then Soderbergh picks a lane and, very competently stays in that lane.
How much one enjoys the film will depend on how much control one prefers in their drive.
(***1/2 out of *****)