Chew's Reviews - Unsane

By Gary Chew | March 22, 2018 |

Opens Friday, March 23 |  

So you think you've never seen any two nuttier guys in the movies than Hitchcock's Norman Bates and Kubrick's Jack Torrance, huh? Well, that's because you haven't had the, uh, pleasure of meeting David Strine. “ Old” David is a not-so-easy-to-forget character who pops up in Steven Soderbergh's latest picture called Unsane. David doesn't have any mama hangups and no one has ever heard him wildly screaming: “Here's Johnny!”

Still, David (Joshua Leonard) is way more than darkly obsessed with Sawyer Valentini. (Nope ... not a gay flick.) Sawyer (Claire Foy, sans crown) is a young woman who's been stalked by David for about two years. She's even had to re-locate further west in the U-S from Boston to get away from the creep.

But maybe David is only in Sawyer's head. But then again, maybe he's for real; masquerading as some guy named George and employed as a nurse/attendant at a mental hospital where a distraught Sawyer is now involuntarily confined after having left Boston. She told a psychologist at that facility she has, at times, thought about committing suicide. Innocently, Sawyer then filled out what seems to be a routine hospital form and signed it. Ouch, the form allows the institution to hold her for a 24-hour observation period. She might be dangerous to herself and others.

While queued with other patients to take their head-meds, Sawyer, for the first time there, spots David administering their prescribed pills with a cup of water. (Each patient must then open his/her mouth to show the meds have been swallowed.) The sight of David tasking this procedure causes Sawyer to just freak right out there in the mental facility. How has David shown up all this way from Boston and gotten a job at a hospital into which Sawyer has only recently been admitted? Your head must “toy” with that flaw in the script ... hatched by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer.

Her rant extends her confinement to seven days. During this subsequent period, she befriends another patient named Nate (Jay Pharoah). Nate says he's hospitalized for opioid withdrawal. He advises her to lay back and cool off. Wild reactions against her incarceration among several others in a mental ward makes Sawyer seem really nutty. (Not exactly shades of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, since the lone ward is occupied by both women and men.)

Thankfully, I'm not knowledgeable about housing procedures in a mental ward, but it seems to me that such a venue would be gender sensitive. Males and females sleeping in the same barracks-like space seems unlikely. What becomes another issue, though, for Sawyer is dissension with Violet (Juno Temple), another patient. Violet is … if you'll excuse my words ... a real bitch. She taunts Sawyer at almost every turn. And with everyone of those face-offs, Sawyer smacks her tormentor. That always gets her in deeper trouble with staff and her psychiatrist… and don't forget: David, the bogus help, isn't suspected of being an impostor by any other employee. They do call him George.

Soderbergh gives us some great visuals with cutting-edge camera work and striking composition. One scene in Unsane is rather riveting. It has the trio of Sawyer, David and Violet alone in, yes, a padded cell ... with blue walls. The sequence is fraught with dissonant emotions for any moviegoer who might be paying close attention to action and dialogue. Both caused me to shudder while, at the same time, uneasily laughing out loud. It's rather reminiscent of when Jack Nicholson screams out … “Here's Johnny” in The Shining (from 1980). I think all in the theater with me then watching that spine-tingler were grunting out laughter as they put a death grip on the seat just in front of them ... as if riding a roller coaster.

Unsane is a well-made film with a few plot holes here and there; but certainly worth an evening at the cinema for those who like to wonder which characters in the film are crazy, insane or, possibly, unsane.
 Copyright © 2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.


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