Trying to start a new life after being stalked, Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) relocates from Boston to Pennsylvania. When she makes an appointment with a therapist at Highland Creek Behavioural Center, Sawyer finds that she has unknowingly signed her consent to stay in voluntary commitment for 24 years. She meets fellow inmates Violet (Juno Temple), who is antagonistic and violent and sympathetic Nate (Jay Pharoah), recovering from an opioid addition. When she sees staff member George Shaw (Joshua Leonard), she believes him to be her stalker. Is he really her stalker, or is she delusional? She reaches out to her mother Angela (Amy Irving) to come to Pennsylvania to help.
Review by Louise Keller:
Real or fabrication? Plaiting themes of obsession and control into an intriguing package of psychological mind games, this electric thriller from Steven Soderbergh is a ripper. Shot on an iPhone and edited and scored with apple technology, Soderbergh has created an intense and intimate film that keeps us engaged and on edge throughout. Claire Foy's dazzling portrayal of the protagonist Sawyer Valentini ensures we are with her every step of the way, as she toggles from control to submission and back, wearing her heart on her sleeve all the while. It is her vulnerability that draws us to her.
Beautifully directed, the film looks fabulous and Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer's sharp, concise screenplay brings together the elements. The repetitive nature of the jarring soundtrack is unnerving. The film begins with vignettes in which we watch how Sawyer handles various situations: a difficult client, a critical colleague, a boss wanting to take advantage and her mother. Control turns to irrationality during an online dating encounter. Revelations to a counselor at the Highland Creek Behavioural Center puts everything into context.
Then the nightmare begins as Sawyer is detained and restrained. It is a terrifying experience. The clock ticks slowly. The lights are stark and harsh. The shadows are longer. Is the stalker still stalking her? Or is she crazy? Joshua Leonard is suitably enigmatic as staff member George Shaw, instilling enough doubt in our minds. It is a role that Robin Williams might have played years ago. The scenes in which medication is dispensed are reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Then there are Sawyer's inmates. Juno Temple is formidable as violent, psychotic Violet, with cornrow tresses and Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live) is likeable as Nate, who offers Sawyer support. As Sawyer's anxious mother, Soderbergh has recruited Amy Irving, who he directed in Traffic (2000).
Soderbergh manages the reality and backstory seamlessly as the flashback scenes provide context and the exposition flows naturally. The tension builds throughout and the climactic crescendo does not disappoint. A gripping, edge of seat experience.
If you have seen Claire Foy as the Queen in the Netflix series The Crown, you will appreciate the range of this extraordinary actress.
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CAST: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharaoh, Juno Temple, Amy Irving, Sarah Stiles, Myra Lucretia Taylor
PRODUCER: Joseph Malloch
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh
SCRIPT: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Soderbergh as Peter Andrews
EDITOR: Steven Soderbergh
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: April Lasky
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2018