Unsane

Shark Month was a lot of fun and I’m extremely reluctant to leave it behind because well, sharks always make sense and during this period, why not enjoy some certainty? But we can come back to all the glorious sharky goodness we haven’t already explored at another time. May is a new month and I’m thinking of labeling it Mental May.

We’ve done this before and it’s worth reiterating that we’re not using the term ‘mental’ in a derogatory way. We’ll just be exploring films about hysterical women and mental is a word so often thrown around in relation to them. We begin with a Steven Soderbergh number that explores one of my greatest fears – being imprisoned/institutionalised against my will.

Unsane (2018)

A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire FoyJoshua LeonardJuno Temple

*Spoilers*

Sawyer Valentini (Foy) is a young woman new to the city. Having recently taken on a rewarding but demanding banking job, she’s 450 miles from her mother and somewhat isolated. You know why? Because of a man. A rotten stinking stalker called David Strine (Leonard).

Sawyer, we find out about a third of the way through the film, worked in a hospice and cared for David’s father, who eventually passed away. Not before David had convinced himself that she was the love of his life though. Following a relentless stream of unsolicited conversations and messages, Sawyer files a restraining order against him and is forced to move away. Still reeling from the trauma of this experience, and finding herself triggered by her interactions with men – she books an appointment with a counselor at the Highland Creek Behaviourial Center to address her issues.

During the initial consultation with her counselor, the topic of suicide comes up. In a generally flippant way, Sawyer brushes it off but unwittingly signs a document that says she’s willingly checked herself into the facility for the next 24 hours. When she’s taken into a room, strip searched and then given medication to sedate her, it quickly becomes apparent that something is deeply amiss.

Obviously reluctant to be locked up where she doesn’t belong, Sawyer is disruptive and aggressive, screaming at fellow patients and assaulting the staff. This buys her seven more days (and no chance of chilling on Sunday). Luckily, she befriends Nate (Jay Pharoah) who becomes an ally and shows her around the joint. He confides in Sawyer that the center is running a scam to milk ‘patients’ of their insurance money AKA. checking them in when they shouldn’t be there and kicking them out when they payments stop. Ooooh.

Later Sawyer realises that David is in the building and now working the night shift, under the alias of George Shaw. Though do you think anybody believes a shrieking female about anything? When she reacts violently again, she is restrained and drugged – and spends most of her time in a similar state.

Nate comes through with a hidden phone which Sawyer uses to call her mum Angela (Carrie‘s Amy Irving). Mum thankfully rushes straight to the facility (from all that way away) and Sawyer tells her all about the stalking, and that David is in the area. Good old ma vows to get her out used all the legal power she can muster. Meanwhile, Nate is kidnapped, beaten and eventually drugged by you guessed it – David.

When his body is discovered the facility cover it up as a suicide but David rather flagrantly sends pictures of a battered Nate to Sawyer on his phone. She gets crazy again but – DESPITE THE FACT SHE HAS PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF FOUL PLAY – the fucking orderlies still ignore her and slap her arse in solitary. Shit son.

It all comes to a head when David fakes papers to show that Sawyer has left the building even though she’s still in the basement. When he goes to visit her she goads him, telling him she can’t be with a virgin and that he should sleep with someone else first. She suggests he grabs another woman from the center and he chooses Violet (Juno Temple), with whom Sawyer has previously had violent run-ins.

Using a shiv that Violet has about her person to stab David in the throat, Sawyer gets away but not for long – and the ending, well the ending is up to you.

Thoughts

This is a pretty solid psychological thriller that begs the question: is Sawyer bonkers or is she really being stalked? About halfway through the film we get the answer to this and I wish there had been more ambiguousness, really. It’s a very unsettling scenario though and not one I hope to ever find myself in.

Sawyer, as our final girl, isn’t particularly likeable and I always find that refreshing. She’s clearly been traumatised by her experiences and these have made her cagey and brittle – but I get the impression she’s a bit of a bitch anyway. She also shows little remorse when Violet is killed which bothered me. However, I was with her all the way, rooting for the very best outcome for her and a bloody horrible demise for pathetically creepy David the Virgin. Claire Foy is very good.

I hate that Mum gets killed. I also think there are a couple of holes in the plot like, I get that David is a stalker who murdered and assumed the identity of George Shaw but one doesn’t simply wander into a medical job and instantly gain access the woman they’re stalking.

One thing about this film that is quite special: it’s filmed entirely on an iPhone 7. Oh and also that, eerily enough, is based on a true scandal.

My Rating

3.5/5

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Surprisingly, this doesn’t appear on the list – however I think it does pass the test. If nothing else there’s a conversation between Sawyer and another woman near the end that revolves around work and not men. So there is that.

What does my favourite think of this one? Would she follow it to the ends of the earth or leave it to rot in solitary? Find out here.

Weekend Watch: The Visit

This relatively simple parable (by M. Night standards anyway) is such a banger. I genuinely adore it and often revisit just because. Perhaps it’s the two leads that do it for me, and even though they’re somewhat precocious teens, their chemistry together just works.

I’ll let you judge for yourself, if you haven’t already enjoyed this one.

Read More

Four more films

A few words on what I’ve been watching at the local multiplex.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Lloyd Vogel.

I loved this and I don’t mind admitting I was caught off guard by how much. As a UK dweller, there’s not much I know about Mr Rogers but Tom Hanks brought him to life up there on the big screen, and with an edge too.

But this tale is more about Vogel, and his inner rage and deep sorrow. A feud with his absent father has him emotionally damaged and unable to move on, which is kind of a problem now he’s a brand new dad himself.

When he’s sent to interview Mr Rogers for a fluff piece, things escalate and the big man’s infinite kindest and patience (or so it seems) bring out the truth. Can Vogel move on? And is Mr Rogers for real?

Well, I cried like a baby for most of this – it’s deeply beautiful and although Rogers isn’t the central focus, Hanks nails his scenes. Matthew Rhys is wonderful too with excellent support from Chris Cooper. My favourite film so far this year and in a season full of bangers, that’s no mean feat.

4/5

Queen & Slim

A couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over.

Wow. What a ride! Absolute babe Daniel Kaluuya teams up with Jodie Turner-Smith in this modern day Bonnie and Clyde story – and I was in 100%.

That makes it sound much lighter than it actually is though – and light on subject matter this is not. We’re dealing with deep-seated racism, police brutality, revolution – and it’s beautiful. Shocking still, unsurprising, brutal – there’s a lot to unpack.

Queen (Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya) enjoy a slightly awkward date that probably isn’t destined to lead anywhere. Except, on the drive home, the pair are pulled over by a prejudiced (white) cop. You can see where this going.

When the situation escalates, with Queen injured and the pig dead, accidentally, at Slim’s hand – we’ve got ourselves a couple on the run. And so begins a dramatic road trip as Queen & Slim find themselves the unintentional poster children for black power. Will they make it to safety and crucially, is this even love between them?

This is a sexy film, with dynamite leads to root for. It’s heartbreaking, angry, simple, stunning and everything about it slaps hard. I really enjoyed the caustic Queen and everything about the dialogue between them. There’s a line Slim utters when Queen asks him what ‘Ride or die’ even means:

‘I just want someone that’s always going to love me. No matter what. Someone that’s going to hold my hand and never let it go.’ ~ Slim

It’s perfect.

4/5

Parasite

A poor family, the Kims, con their way into becoming the servants of a rich family, the Parks. But their easy life gets complicated when their deception is threatened with exposure.

This is the film I was most looking forward to during awards season. Bong Joon Ho already won me over years ago – uh, hello Memories of Murder – so I knew I’d be in for a treat. Not to mention the fact it’s a rarity for non-white, non-american movies to get a look in on most awards lists and I was excited to see how it would be received.

Parasite is spot on. Dark and twisted, sure but funny too. The plot just keeps giving, rendering you speechless at points, devastated at others and hoping against hope for a happy ending. Mostly it examines the South Korean class system and compares the life of two very different families: the haves and the have-nots.

In a nutshell, the Kims are barely getting by. Living dejectedly in a poor neighbourhood, doing what they can to feed and clothes themselves, fortune changes when son Ki-woo scores a tutoring gig for a wealthy family: the Parks.

It’s not long before the rest of the Kims – sister Ki-jong, and mum and dad Ki-taek and Chung-sook – have secured well-paid positions within the family too. But things take a batshit turn when a usurped former member of staff shows up one rainy night… and that’s all you get from me. 

I loved this so much – it’s the director’s second best film – and I am beyond stoked it swept the board at the Oscars. It’s just a shame none of the incredible actors were even nominated.

Stand-outs for me are, of course Joon Ho regular Kang-ho Song, the flawless Yeo-jeong Jo who plays the Park’s gullible but lovely matriach – and So-dam Park who plays the Kim’s daughter Ki-jong. Housekeeper Moon-gwang (Jeong-eun Lee) pretty much steals the show though.

Wonderful.

5/5

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.

Last but by no means least, it’s fun times with Miss Harley Quinzel. Honestly this was a total trip from start to finish. I laughed a lot, absolutely relished the aesthetic and loved the soundtrack. This is everything Suicide Squad should have been but could never.

Sure, there’s not that much to it. Harley (Margot Robbie) has broken up with the Joker (good riddance), and she’s letting go and moving on. Except being the Joker’s girl affords a certain immunity, a safety from the consequences of her erratic actions and without that, Harley finds all her nemeses crawling out of the woodwork, ready for payback. Including would-be king pin Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

But Harley’s nothing if not resourceful and she cuts a deal with Roman to find a very valuable diamond that’s been nicked by a young pickpocket. Along the way she also meets the mysterious Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), nightclub songstress and badass Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) – and criminally underappreciated cop Renee Montoya (the legend Rosie Perez). 

Will girl power out when Roman turns on them all? Well what the fuck do you think?

I want to watch this all over again because it’s actually good, which is credit to its female director (Cathy Yan) and female writer (Christina Hodson) – AND producer Robbie. It’s so refreshing to see strong, sexy women on the big screen who aren’t being solely sexualised. It’s the difference between Zack Snyder directed Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman. Anyway, I want more please.

5/5 for fun alone

What are you watching?