This truly is one of the rarest commodities in the cinema pantheon; a film that conveys multiple plot angles, each as disturbing as the next, yet in a most quiet and understated fashion.
Environmental illness sends a California wife (Julianne Moore) to a New Age guru’s (Peter Friedman) clinic in New Mexico.
How do you live when all of those around you and indeed your entire environment is potentially a danger to you? That is the question at the core of Safe. Todd Haynes’ psychological drama is more than 20 years old but its themes continue of disease and social isolation resonate to this day and with the current outbreak of the Coronavirus, the message is even more profound than ever.
Julianne Moore stars as Carol White, a suburban housewife who has a good marriage and an active but distant social life witha group of friends. Life takes a sudden turn for the worse when Carol develops an unnamed disease which renders her vulnerable to everyday chemicals, ranging from car exhaust fumes to cosmetics at the local salon. Medical help is swiftly pursued but the doctors are left scratching their heads about Carol’s predicament. As her condition and situation worsens, so too do her relationships with those around her. Is there a cure for Carol or is she destined to suffer?
Haynes’ film moves along at a careful pace, sometimes too slow, the illness afflicting Carol gradually coming into play and turning her life upside down. It doesn’t appear to be something contagious to others but for Carol her social circles are turned upside down, now a life threatening engagement rather than a pleasant one. Julianne Moore is always reliable as an actor and she does not disappoint here in what is one of her earlier roles. The film leaves more questions than answers by the conclusion and though the ending is apt, it might not be completely satisfying for some people.
Verdict: A satisfying, rather than exceptional, psychological drama but one with a great performance from Julianne Moore.