Unsane | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews




A very disturbing film that amazingly was shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus in 4K. As a consequence it must have the shortest list of final credits that I have ever seen. The picture quality was obviously different to that of conventional filming, giving it at times a documentary feel, and the aspect ratio was noticeably different. But that is enough of the technical background. What about the film?

Claire Foy plays Sawyer Valentini, a bright young woman who has recently started a new job at a bank in Pennsylvania. But she has a secret. She has moved from Boston, where her mother still lives, to escape a stalker, David Strine. She met him when helping out at a hospice, where she used to read to his dying father. He became besotted with her, and now she thinks she sees him almost everywhere she goes. After believing that she spotted him in the bank, she seeks advice from a counsellor at a nearby hospital. During the interview she mentions occasional suicide thoughts, which is enough to warrant some further treatment. But after she signs some papers, without carefully reading them, she finds herself admitted against her will, and moved into a ward with other disturbed people. No amount of protestation has any effect, and the local police ignore her call for help once presented with the signed forms. She is trapped.

Her resistance and occasional flash-point aggression against the other patients, and an orderly, further reinforces the hospitals argument that she needs to be kept incarcerated. However, one of the other patients, Nate, offers her some advice, and explains that it's all a scam, the hospital having admitted her to get the insurance money. He tells her to wait it out, as she will be released once the insurance company stops paying, after perhaps about a week. He also has a phone, which is against the rules, but it allows Sawyer to contact her mother, who immediately makes her way to the hospital. But she has no more luck than her daughter: getting no help from the police; being effectively threatened in respect of her daughter's future by the hospital administrator; and not getting much further with the lawyer she contacts.

But things soon get worse, when Sawyer comes face to face with her stalker, who has got a job at the hospital under an assumed name. Of course, nobody believes her, after all she is in there because of her alleged mental instability. Things really go downhill from this point, with Strine calling all the shots. The other staff have the utmost confidence in him, allowing him to manipulate the situation, including giving Sawyer a hallucinatory drug to further convince people of her instability.

However, Nate believes in her, and assures her that she is not mad. But Strine has spotted their closeness, and moves to do something about it. And where is her mother? Things have now become very disturbing and what up to now has been a psychological thriller begins to morph into a horror story.

Reviews have been good if not spectacular, but this is a slowly unfolding psychological thriller that should certainly hold your attention. Claire Foy gives a commanding performance as a woman who suspects she has a mental illness, while the exposé of the potential commercial exploitation of people with mental illness is something that we should all be concerned about.

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