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UNSANE Review – "Crazy For Loving You"

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Shot on an iPhone, is it standard-issue woman-in-peril suspenser, or more?

by Staci Layne Wilson @StaciWilson

Unsane reviewWho doesn’t love a good old-fashioned trapped-in-an-insane asylum flick? Olivia de Havilland launched the genre with The Snake Pit (1948) and Joan Crawford elevated it in the exploitation era with Strait-Jacket (1964). Our fascination with the loony lockdown continued with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1974), Girl, Interrupted (1999), and Shutter Island (2010) to name only a few.

These stories play on an innate distrust of mental hospitals which began way back in the Middle Ages with London’s infamously cruel Bethlem Psychiatric Hospital (aka, Bedlam)—not to mention a general fear of being locked up with dangerous denizens capable of who knows what!

That’s the premise of Steven Soderbergh’s zesty new lo-fi thriller Unsane, which features Claire Foy (The Crown) as Sawyer Valentini, an unstable corporate professional who is committed to lock-down in a mental health facility following an admission about having thoughts of suicide, due to the extreme stress caused by an unending effort to stay ahead of her relentless stalker. If, indeed there even is a stalker.

Unfortunately, the mystery isn’t played out long enough—we soon find out that the deranged romeo, David (Joshua Leonard of The Blair Witch Project) has finagled his way onto the nursing staff—and Unsane becomes a standard-issue woman-in-peril suspenser.

That’s OK, but the screenplay could have been a lot better (let’s put it this way: the writing team’s past credits include Larry the Cable Guy and they haven’t done much since then). The political undercurrent decrying the state of our healthcare system is relevant, but about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Everything is just too pat.

Fortunately, the actors elevate the story and dialogue to greater heights. Foy is brittle excellence as Sawyer, giving her a believable feral quality. Amy Irving plays her widowed mom,  and Juno Temple plays a fellow inmate.

Soderbergh (using his usual cameraman pseudonym, Peter Andrews) shot the entire movie on an iPhone, giving it an appropriately voyeuristic cinéma vérité look and feel. There’s an aesthetic fit to his early digital dip-ins, Bubble (2005) and The Girlfriend Experience (2009). The quirky, offbeat and unsettling score by Thomas Newman (Spectre) is absolutely perfect.

Overall, I liked it. Unsane is not quite unsettling enough to get under the skin nor is it pulpy enough to elicit so-bad-it’s-good glee, but it’s a fast-paced and well-acted thriller that is worth watching when it hits VOD.

UNSANE Review by Staci Layne Wilson

Rated R

1h 38m

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UNSANE Review — Shot on an iPhone, is it standard-issue woman-in-peril suspenser, or more?

by Staci Layne Wilson @StaciWilson

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

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