Apr 1, 2018

REVIEW: UNSANE (dir. Soderbergh)

'The film’s premise is slipped on as gently as a straitjacket.   Sawyer’s struggles to free herself ("This is all a terrible mistake!") only serve to tighten it even more. One night turns into one week. Allowed one phone call, she calls the cops, but her muttering about they’ll arrive any minute to free her render her indistinguishable from all the other nuts on her ward: a  trashy, tampon-throwing Southerner (June Temple) who wears her hair in corn rows and promises to cut Sawyer up at night, or a opioid-addicted fellow patient Nate (Jay Pharoah) who whispers about the institute’s shady business model, designed to milk patients' insurance until it runs dry. “They got beds, you got insurance,” he says. We’ve been down this road before, in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, and Soderbergh’s own Side Effects, his Rooney Mara thriller of 2013 which had similarly pointed things to say about the Kafkaesque world of the short-term incarceration industry.  This is the slighter film, no question — a quick-and-dirty psychothriller shot entirely on the iPhone 7 Plus,  which foreshortens perspective, amplifies empty space and drills into Sawyer’s skewed, strung-out head-space — but it is as sharp as a splinter. It gets under your skin, thanks to its spidery cinematography and Foy’s performance, with its alternating gusts of fury and fragility. Foy doesn’t shy from making Sawyer abrasive, even a little bit of a bitch.  And yet she remains eminently sane. Hence the title. How would an entirely rational actor act if everyone around them conspired to treat them as if they were a lunatic?  Wouldn’t it drive them — you know, a little nuts?' — from my Sunday Times review


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