I was on vacation last week for my birthday, so I decided to check out UNSANE in the theater. It's not a bad film, though it's a bit of a bust bondage-wise - Claire Foy ends up in four-point restraints twice, for maybe a total of a minute, and there's no straitjacket action at all. But it is nice to see a film about a woman wrongly committed to a mental hospital, and the free time has led me to ponder how the film could be "improved".
Claire plays Sawyer, who moved 500 miles away from her home to avoid a stalker, David, but she still sees him everywhere. She goes to a "behavioral center" to talk to a therapist, but she inadvertently signs a paper voluntarily committing herself for 24 hours, which gets lengthened to 7 days after a couple of violent outbursts. She is befriended by Nate, who is supposedly there for a 4-week opioid rehab, but is actually an undercover reporter sending info to his editor with a forbidden cell phone. He advises Sawyer to play it cool until the 7 days are up, since that's all her insurance company will pay for, but she is convinced that new orderly George is actually David in disguise. She uses Neal's phone to call her mother for help; her mom comes quickly, but she's unable to get the police or her lawyer to free Sawyer.
The film reveals WAY too early that David killed the real George and took his place at the hospital (a gaping plot hole IMHO - nobody in HR noticed the new guy changed appearances?), and David quickly murders Sawyer's mom (in her hotel room) and Nate (sneaks him into the basement, uses a defibrillator for some ECT, and injects a massive dose or fentanyl). David secrets Sawyer into a padded cell (dark blue mats) in the basement, alters the paperwork to show that she's already been discharged, and plans on moving her to a cabin in the woods to create his perfect life. Sawyer discovers that David is a virgin, and tells him that she can't be his first and convinces him to bring fellow patient Violet to the padded cell. She prevents David from raping Violet by pretending to make out with her, but it's a ruse to get Violet's homemade knife. She stabs David and makes a run for it, but he snaps Violet's neck and knocks Sawyer out.
Sawyer comes to in the trunk of David's car, right next to her dead mother. She grabs her mother's cross necklace, and after they reach David's cabin and he opens the trunk, she manages to stab him in the face with the cross and slash his throat with Violet's knife and kill him. While all this is happening, the police find the real George's dead body, and finds enough evidence at the hospital to arrest the slimy female administrator. Six months later, Sawyer is at a restaurant and is convinced that a man is David, and sneaks up behind him with a knife. He turns around and, realizing her mistake, Sawyer drops the knife and runs out of the restaurant.
I really like how the first part of the film shows Sawyer unwittingly setting herself up to be committed. She goes to the hospital which is the top response to a Google search for "support groups for victims of stalkers" (never a good idea), lets the therapist lead her into admitting she's had suicidal thoughts in the past (giving the hospital a reason to keep her until the insurance runs out), and signs a bunch of papers without reading them first. After giving the papers to the receptionist and starting to leave, the receptionist tells Sawyer to sit down and someone will come to "discuss the next step". Sawyer is confused, but quietly acquiesces, and ends up waiting for a while, even though the exit's right there. (I love the idea that most of the mental patient's time in the hospital is spent waiting around without the ability to do anything useful; this can lead to frustration and acting out, which only makes things worse for the poor woman.)
When an orderly finally arrives and escorts her to an exam room, the camera glides behind Sawyer as she goes down several corridors and becomes effectively lost in the hospital. A nurse tells her to strip down to her underwear for a skin check; Sawyer tries to leave, but the door is locked from the outside. "It'll be better for all of us - especially you - if you cooperate." Sawyer meekly removes her clothing, and after the exam, is given a flimsy gown and is led down more halls to the ward, where several patients, both men and women, sleep in the same room. She demands a phone call, and the nurse allows her to call 911, saying afterwards, "Do you know how many calls they get from here?" (Indeed, 2 cops are shown half-heartedly leafing through Sawyer's paperwork while making small talk with the receptionist.)
After trying to sleep for a few hours, Sawyer jumps up and bolts for the door. She is stopped by one of the male patients, but she knees him in the groin and starts pounding on the door and shouting. When one of the orderlies opens the door, she punches him right in the face; 2 other orderlies quickly grab her and carry her back to the bed, where they apply four-point restraints while the nurse injects a sedative. She's let out the next morning, but defending herself from an attack by Violet gets her put in the cuffs again.
First of all, there's no way they'd allow men and women in the same sleeping dorms; the potential for sexual assault would be enormous. Sawyer would be held on an all-female ward, preferably younger, attractive women. I'm not sure I'd have them sleep in the same big room, either; I'd have them sleep in semi-private rooms. Sawyer would share a room with the female replacement for Nate, I'd have her explicitly reference Nellie Bly during her expository scenes. Also, after assaulting 3 people in less than 12 hours, Sawyer would have to spend a 24-hour cooling-off period in a padded cell, straitjacketed, muzzled, ankle-hobbled, and doped to the gills. After returning to the ward, she'd have to spend the next 24 hours in leather mittens locked to a wide belt and ankle hobbles, and sleep in seven-point restraints (wrist and ankle cuffs, and canvas belts on her chest, waist and thighs).
I'd still have David kill the female Nate, but not Sawyer's mother. Instead, her mother would come back the next day to visit her, but instead of seeing her daughter in the visiting room, she's confronted by the psychiatrist, the administrator, and several orderlies and nurses. "You were very agitated and angry yesterday," the psychiatrist condescendingly says, "and I am concerned that your daughter's neuroses may have a hereditary aspect to them." This provides enough of a distraction for the nurse to inject her with a heavy sedative, and for the orderlies to wrap her in a full-body canvas sleeve with laces and straps and a leather muzzle gag, and stash her in a padded cell.
For the climax, I'd have David threaten a straitjacketed and sedated Sawyer in the padded cell, but run off as the police storm the hospital and get shot and killed while fighting an officer. I'd have the police load up the transport vehicles with handcuffed employees, but run out of cuffs when they get to the female administrator. "Why don't we use this," says an officer holding up a straitjacket. "There's more than enough of these lying around."
"Don't put me in that, I'm not crazy!" she spits out as they slide the canvas sleeves up her arms.
"That's enough out of you," an officer replies, strapping a muzzle on her face. The mental patients, freed from their restraints but kept in the ward cafeteria by the police, cheer as the struggling administrator is frogmarched past them.
Unfortunately, the state mental health laws require that the women be taken to a legitimate mental institution for a 120-hour observation period and thorough psychiatric examination. Several hospital transport vehicles pull up, and orderlies jump out, carting large duffel bags full of restraints (the corrupt hospital's restraints would be confiscated for evidence).
All the women are quickly straitjacketed and hobbled, and marched out to be strapped into the van seats. Sawyer and her mom would be sitting side by side, and sadly smile at each other as the van drives off.
That would make for a nice ending, but why stop there? The irony would be that the legitimate hospital would be much stricter - each woman would be kept in her own small padded cell, wrapped in a maximum-security straitjacket, locking ankle restraints with an inflexible 12-inch hobble, and muzzled with an inflatable gag. The gag would only be removed for mealtimes and exam sessions. The women would be kept completely isolated from each other, having heavy canvas hoods applied as the nurses take them to the exam rooms. I'd even put Sawyer and her mother next to each other, unable to communicate through the thickly padded, heavily soundproofed walls.
I'd have Sawyer discharged at the end of the 120 hours, but her mother would be diagnosed with schizophrenia and held for another 90 days. She'd also be subject to a rigorous regimen of ECT treatments, as older women are more likely to be prescribed ECT. Sawyer would only be allowed to visit once a week in full restraints. She would show up early Saturday morning and be taken to a therapy room, where she is straitjacketed and strapped to a heavily padded chair. After at least 15 minutes (always make them wait . . . ), her mother's psychiatrist enters and grills Sawyer about her relationship with her mother. The session can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the whims of the psychiatrist (who thinks that Sawyer should have regular therapy sessions anyway, but this is the only way she can be legally forced to do so). Afterwards, the orderlies unstrap her from the chair, but keep the jacket on and apply a gag and heavy hood. They march Sawyer around in a circuitous route to the special visiting room, where they leave her in muffled darkness until they wheel in her mother, fully covered in leather straps and hood. The hoods are removed, and mother and daughter are allowed to talk for 30 minutes (can be shortened or lengthened at the doctor's command) alone (the orderlies wait outside, but a junior psychiatrist monitors the conversation and sends notes to the other doctor). At the end of the visit, the orderlies replace the gag and hood and take Sawyer back to the therapy room, where she is strapped down and subject to another session with her mother's psychiatrist, before she can leave the hospital.