Levels of Paranoia: An ‘Unsane’ Review

By Anthony Peyton, Edited by Olivia Norwood

Psychological thrillers are off to a wild start this year with the murderous Thoroughbreds and now moving onto another darkened thriller called Unsane. The difference? This one makes you question whether you are paranoid or just out of your mind.

Paranoia is a feeling that many psychiatrists, counselors, and therapists may mistake for schizophrenia, depression, or even insanity. Those same psychiatrists may use this feeling-portrayed-as-a-disease to recommend an actual psych evaluation. People may think you are insane when you are something much different.

You are Unsane.

Shot entirely using a phone camera, director Steven Soderbergh and writers James Greer and Jonathan Bernstein tell the dark story of a formerly suicidal woman named Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) who is a victim of severe stalking by an ex-boyfriend.

Even after filing restraining order after restraining order, she still continually felt as if she was being watched. Maybe you’ve felt that feeling. The feeling of someone staring at you behind the park bench you took a break on during your morning jog. The feeling that maybe someone is staring through your window from the street outside. Sawyer Valentini felt all of these things.

It goes to show that sometimes paranoia isn’t your brain tricking you into believing a false entity. Paranoia can be your brain warning you of what is actually happening.

That is where the story begins and that is the path it follows. It explodes into a tense reawakening of just how far someone will go to get what they want.

Foy (The Crown, Breathe) delivers as good of a performance as anyone who only has a phone camera to work with, while still successfully making the audience question whether her character is genuinely insane or in her right mind.

She co-stars alongside Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project, If I Stay), who plays the seemingly unstoppable stalker in a performance that successfully portrays the absolute darkness of borderline personality disorder disguised as a man who will do anything for “love”.

There were very few bad acting moments from the cast (which also included Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, and Aimee Mullins). The acting itself helped to make this movie better than many this year by having every single actor stick to their character precisely and accurately to give each one the ability to be despised or adored by the audience.

Set in a mental institution for much of the film, Soderbergh uses rapid twisting camera angles to resemble the mind of a mental institution patient. In regards to Valentini, it makes her constant paranoia seem like she is, in fact, insane.

Even as an audience member, it’s hard not to question Valentini’s obsessive accusations of seeing her stalker everywhere. She thinks she sees him in restaurants, at her job, her house, anywhere that she goes. This is the case with the entire movie.

It provides a very important study of the difference between insanity and simple paranoia, which can also be the difference between being viewed as mentally unstable and just fearful. It shows just how hard it can be to recognize these within people, and the trust and believability used in keeping someone healthy.

Unsane is just dark enough to give us everything we need in a psychological thriller; fear, creativity, commendatory acting, and the ability to screw the minds of every shaking audience member.

My Rating: 85%

Acting: 3.1/4

Cinematography: 3.2/4

Story: 3.9/4

Enjoyability: 3.4/4