Unsane (Soderbergh, 2018)

I wouldn’t say that Unsane is necessarily quality cinema, for a lot of it is of the pulp thriller variety that could pass off as an adaptation of a number of books with black covers with sinister images. And instead of elevating it, Soderbergh brings it down to the absolute basics by shooting it with an iPhone, so that everything has the pallor of distemper to it. Not one of his aesthetically pleasing works, to be sure. It works, though. The grungy feel puts you at more of a remove from the main character’s mindset, forcing you to question her sanity as she spirals out of control. At first you bristle at how callously she is tricked into being “voluntarily” committed in a psychiatric ward. You note that something is not right. Then, Claire Foy’s Sawyer begins having paranoid freakouts, and aggressively lashes out at the patients and staff. She has a stalker, she says, and now she is seeing him in the guise of the ward’s doctor. It seems like a delusion that’s growing ever so much more rampant, and one the hospital must control with a regimen of meds. But what if, for once, the seemingly mentally-ill patient is the most rational person in the building?

I know that Unsane descends into a schlocky puddle by the very end, wrapping up its narrative with a whole slew of your favourite clichés: bodies in trunks, distressed women running through the woods at night, gratuitous murders, crazed men with hammers, miraculous police investigations taking the corrupt villains to task at the last minute, etc. It’s all as I said, the kind of stuff you’d find in Paula Hawkins or what have you. Very basic genre crumbs to make the adrenaline pump for a while. But the general intent of this, which involves skewering corporations that try to take advantage of the mentally ill for profit, is quite noble, and I found it to be very sympathetic towards those suffering from mental illness as a whole. This makes it easy for it to enter into my good graces, the tawdry pulpiness notwithstanding. And it’s also a plain ol’ fun time, with Claire Foy shedding her royal bearing from The Crown and acting with a more outward vibrancy and ferocity that shows off her versatility well. While watching this, I could totally understand why she was cast as the next Lisbeth Salander. She’s very easy to root for, and knows how to “enter” the darkness when needed.