Review: Unsane (2018)

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Numbers obtained from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes on March 27, 2018.

Most of the time, unfortunately, stalking victims are not taken as seriously as they should, with many people considering their claims as “exaggerations” or purely “inventions.” This is the premise of Unsane, Steven Soderbergh’s latest film.

Filmed entirely with an iPhone, Unsane tells the story of Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), a young woman who moved from Boston to a Pennsylvania town to escape from a stalker. She talks over the phone with her mother (Amy Irving) over lunch, trying to convince her that her life is fine, but she clearly continues to suffer in silence.

Sawyer seeks psychological help and, admitting to the therapist that she has already considered taking her own life, she ends up signing up, without realizing, for a 24-hour observation in a mental health facility. However, the clinic has no interest in discharging her while the insurance covers her hospitalization.

There, Sawyer recognizes one of the nurses as her stalker, David Strine (Joshua Leonard). Despite her efforts to tell everyone who he is, no one believes in her story and she is increasingly seen as crazy.

The construction of the narrative is very clever in also making the viewer doubt Sawyer, with several indications that she would, in fact, be paranoid about the alleged stalking. The director reveals halfway through the film whether or not she is insane and it becomes a bit more violent and disturbing than one would expect.

Unsane‘s main point is the discussion about how society treats victims of stalking, belittling their claims and forcing them to completely change their routines. There is a flashback scene where we see a policeman (played by a surprise cameo!) advising Swayer to install a home security system; completely change her routine; avoid being photographed, etc., also suggesting that she reads the book “The Gift of Fear “by Gavin de Becker.

All these measures taken by Sawyer show something that, unfortunately, happens frequently: the victim is the one forced to change, not the stalker.

The movie also criticizes the US health insurance system, showing that clinics care more about insurance money than about patient well-being.

Claire Foy shows, once again, that she is an excellent actress, capable of playing someone suffering extreme mental violence. The fact that it was filmed on an iPhone highlights her performance, since the camera is very close to her and reaches angles that show how Sawyer is emotionally shaken.

Unsane is not a perfect movie, of course. It even has very disturbing scenes that make the viewer look away from the screen. However, it is a necessary portrait of what many women are going through, especially at this time when the anti-sexual harassment movement is in the news daily.


Brazilian lawyer that has more passion for movies, theater and music than for the law.

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