Steven Soderbergh petitioned the Directors Guild of America to let him make his new low-budget, high-concept stalker thriller Unsane under a pseudonym, and I can imagine why.
Unsane comes closer to the spirit of his first feature, Sex, Lies and Videotape, not in subject matter or genre but in experimentation of form.
While the director obsessively employed tracking shots in Sex, he’s patient with static shots in Unsane, allowing the blocking of his actors’ movements to create dynamism.
We first see Sawyer in a cookie-cutter cubicle office, back-talking to a banking client for being stupid.
Sawyer takes a guy home from a bar but then has a sudden, visceral, violent reaction to him being in her apartment; concerned, she looks up therapy clinics and sets off on her lunch hour the next day for her first session.
Unbeknownst to Sawyer, a 24-hour commitment form has been included in all the boilerplate paperwork she signs, and she soon gets carted off to spend the night in a ward with a group of other patients, some of whom seem perfectly well adjusted, such as Nate.
Sawyer can get through a bumpy 24 hours inside, but then she believes she sees, working as an orderly, her stalker David, who’d driven her from multiple homes and jobs.
The tag line for this film – “Is she or isn’t she?” – refers to whether Sawyer is imagining her stalker, but the script, penned by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, isn’t clever enough to keep us really guessing.
Like Sawyer, I felt trapped, which last happened to me at the movies during Karyn Kusama’s cult horror film The Invitation.