by Afra Nariman
Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Julianne Moore, Peter Friedman, Xander Berkeley
Safe simultaneously takes place in two worlds. One is fictionally informed, it is cinematic, and through this world’s elements (i.e.: the environmental illness), the film can be metaphorical in its criticism of a variety of real world issues — many of which fall under the umbrella of modern patriarchal American values — and this allows the film to integrate this world with its second; which is the real world itself. Safe very much reflects our world in the way it is structured, as well as the topics that are deemed relevant and/or problematic. The film distinguishes between these two worlds most explicitly when Carol heads to Wrenwood to seek a safe haven — which is, not coincidently, when the film’s criticism of self-help culture begins to take precedent. There’s lots to unpack in this film, all adjacent to what I’ve highlighted, but so much more.
Julianne Moore’s performance is incredible, as always. One of the greatest actresses of her generation. Safe is directed with intelligence, compassion, and urgency — yet also with restraint. It never gets lost in exploring any one of its many interpretable themes or topics, and it consistently resists the urge of distancing itself too much from real life. It is always directly reflective of our reality. Safe is very much a film informed by and grounded in the 1990’s, but featuring themes that are just as relevant today.
MY RATING /5:
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