As usual, Soderbergh has kind of muddied the waters surrounding this movie with his antics, with much of the buzz being about how it was shot entirely on an iPhone and in only a single week. Those things being what they are, let’s actually talk about the movie for a change. Claire Foy plays a woman struggling with paranoia and depression after being stalked; she’s across the country now, struggling to create a new life, but when she finds herself admitted to a mental hospital after a troubling encounter with a therapist, she’s either the victim of an elaborate gaslighting exercise or falling deeper into paranoia. I think the reason this film works as well as it does is mostly down to the cast, though Soderbergh brings a claustrophobic drabness to the setting while also giving a few interesting visual flourishes. There’s a very unsettling drug trip sequence, for instance, where Soderbergh is clearly just having fun and it really works. The supporting cast is pretty good. Juno Temple is uncanny as a particularly disturbed patient and her ultimate fate is actually rather horrifying. Joshua Leonard is very good and surprisingly minimal as Foy’s creepy stalker. Amy Irving, who I haven’t seen in ages, is quite good as Sawyer’s troubled mother. But it is Foy’s central performance that elevates the film above its pretty cliched and predictable screenplay. She kind of stares down the audience by playing her character, Sawyer, as deliberately unlikable. She’s certainly emotionally unstable, the question being how emotionally unstable she actually is, but she’s also annoying at times and frustrating. I think Soderbergh is up to something here by making Sawyer play along with a lot of stereotypes of women and mental instability. Foy pitches her hysteria just right, goading us to, at least on some level, react to Sawyer on a gendered level, in a more negative way than we would if the main character was a man, and then to feel uncomfortable about that. And a scene late in the film where Sawyer gets the chance to just vent all of her rage at a predatory male is a meltdown of epic proportions; it’s not even physical, only verbal, but it is a rant for the ages and it also feels absolutely of our moment and is viscerally satisfying on a deep, deep level. Foy’s award worthy, I think, but the movie has already come and gone without a splash, so it’s doubtful that she’ll get any notices. The fact that Soderbergh is still playing with some ideas even while nominally making a movie that’s nothing more than a stripped down thriller is compelling to me. But the film does have some problematic messaging about mental illness, I think. The only way to view the film positively is to view it as being about just this particular hospital where there are serious lapses in protocol and procedures surrounding patient care in mental health facilities. As someone who has been in a mental health facility, I could probably list a solid twenty incredibly obvious violations that would really NEVER happen at anything but the most corrupt and unaccredited hospital. A troubling scene where one character argues that things are basically this bad at all mental health hospitals is both ugly and kind of infuriating. It’s possible that a film like this could actually put people off seeking treatment. Still, taken with a grain of salt, it’s a solid enough thriller in the stripped-down lo-fi mode; like Soderbergh’s Haywire, it’s really mostly a light thriller plot structured around giving a female lead the chance to really impress the audience. And Foy’ is up to the task. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission. Just, you know, recognize that it’s silly and you’ll be fine. 3 stars.
tl;dr – a rote script and a fair bit of silliness is elevated by the performances; Claire Foy is particularly brilliant with a layered complicated performance. 3 stars.