Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) moved to Pennsylvania from Boston to
take a good job offer. She's
done well, the Manager has called her in to praise her work---and offer
her a trip to a conference with him, which she politely declines.
She keeps to herself, much to the curiosity of her cubicle
co-workers. To discourage
speculation, she infers that her “significant other” might be a woman,
which she hopes might make her more immune to unwanted innuendo.
She talks to her mother back in Boston on her lunch break.
At night, sometimes she flirts with men in a bar, but she also
makes sure it doesn't go anywhere. She's
had more than enough interest from a male.
It seems she really moved to escape a stalker, against whom she had
to take out a restraining order. Though
she thought that some physical distance might help her anxiety, she
nevertheless decides to seek some counseling.
That turns out to be a big mistake.
It seems this counseling facility is actually a mental institution,
who will jump at any opportunity for patient admissions, including your
signature on forms they claim are “routine” and “boilerplate.”
But they actually allow involuntary incarceration.
Before Sawyer knows it, she's ushered to an inside corridor, where
she is given a sedative, and placed on a floor with other
matter how much she protests. She
asks for her one phone call, and she dials the police.
Except when they come out, they just look at her paperwork in the
reception area, and go back to the station.
They've done this a few times before.
Sawyer is not cooperating, and that, of course, just makes things
worse for her. When an
employee tries to stop her from fleeing by putting his hands on her, she
hits him. That earns her a bed
with restraining straps. When
another “inpatient” harasses her and attempts to intimidate her, she
answers that with physicality, also, and gets “disciplined” again.
Any more, they say, and it's down to the basement---solitary
Taking medication is a ritual where you have to physically ingest
the medicine in front of a staff member, then open your mouth and stick
out your tongue to prove you have not hidden it instead.
Only one person shows her any kindness, Nate (Jay Pharoah), is in
there for opioid addiction, and tries to tell her that the way to make an
good impression is to follow the rules, keep your head down, and don't
make waves. But that's not in
Sawyer's nature, not when she's determined to prove that there's been some
huge mistake. And then the
real nightmare starts: her
stalker returns, in the form of the new staff guy, David (Joshua Leonard),
who claims to have no idea what she's talking about.
So who's the crazy one here?
Director Steven Soderberg ratchets up the creepiness level, as
Sawyer's sense of helplessness increases.
We empathize with her experience of the unsympathetic bureaucracy.
And most of us have emcountered “unwanted attention” at some
point, not to mention situations where we felt helpless, and the harder we
tried, the worse it got. Golden
Globe winner Claire Foy's presence expertly commands the screen, even when
she's not glamorous. Her
performance is the high point of an uncomfortable film that speaks its own
truth, but will struggle to find an audience.