Steven Soderbergh continues his descent into Lo-Fi
Experience March Madness the right way: with movies
It’s finally the month of March madness (not just in college basketball). Later this month, Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone-shot film, Unsane, will be released across theaters nationwide. Deviating from the conventional Hollywood macro budget parameters, this $1.2 million film uses a minimalistic approach to tell its story.
The thriller is about Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), a victim of stalking, who attends a therapeutic session after moving to Pennsylvania. Her therapist recommends that she voluntarily go to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center for a period of 24 hours. After being admitted into the center, her stay is extended by the hospital staff who recognize symptoms to a condition that Valentini does not have. Growing overly suspicious, Valentini is convinced that her stalker works at the institution. In fear of this, she must now escape the center before she actually goes, unsane.
Soderbergh took a risk shooting the film on a smartphone, but it works. The still perspective with merely no depth of field gives the movie a realistic feeling that captivates the audience and places them in the action. In the trailer, the security camera like footage during the medical examination emphasizes the helplessness of the audience. Using cinematic distortion, Soderbergh’s film will leave the theater shaken as everyone asks themselves: Is there anyone I can trust?
Unsane isn’t the only thriller that finds itself taking place in a mental institution. Stonehearst Asylum, directed by Brad Anderson, is a hidden gem that I found on Netflix; it never received as much public attention as the movie coming out later this month.
The movie starring Ben Kingsley was released on October 24, 2014, in time for that year’s Halloween celebration. However, the movie came in at a disappointing 54% on Rotten Tomatoes for its flat storytelling and stoic portrayal of potentially attractive characters.
Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe, Stonehearst Asylum is about a young Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess), who goes to a mental institution in hopes of learning from the renowned Dr. Silas Lamb (Kingsley). Newgate falls in love with patient Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), and unintentionally discovers the true identity of the hospital staff. Taken over by the patients, Stonehearst Asylum, is actually a sanctuary for the social misfits. Newgate must navigate in between the deceitful Dr. Lamb’s teachings to save the woman he loves and the actual hospital staff.
First off, I believe that the acting in the film was decent considering the script. The movie is about mentally unstable patients, yet Sturgess and Beckinsale still manage to express a fascinating display of chemistry that the viewer can root for. Kingsley’s performance was also convincing, but it was not as impactful as his more iconic roles such as in Ghandi (1982) or Schlinder’s List (1993). Kingsley at his worst, though, is still better than most actors at their best. David Thewlis, known for the Harry Potter films, transformed into a maniac who demolished the presence of Professor Lupin. If it weren’t for the entertaining moments in the movie, then I would agree that the movie was mediocre. Luckily, Anderson’s cast saved his sinking ship.
In order to enjoy both of these films, I recommend that you enter the theater or sit on your couch with an open mind… or suspension of disbelief if you will. Go into it not knowing what to expect, and you will come out with a surprisingly satisfied experience. These movies are meant to play with insanity, so if you feel disoriented or paranoid by the end of Unsane or Stonehearst Asylum, then congratulations, you’re just as crazy as the rest of us.
Unsane hits the theaters on March 23, 2018.