Safe Passage Review
By Rachel Gordon
Despite having a well-known and talented cast, including Susan Sarandon, Robert Sean Leonard, and Sam Shepard, this film was all but passed over when it came out in 1994. This can partly be attributed to its basic themes lacking in unique qualities. A bunch of kids from the same household that have their extreme quirks to distinguish them as an actual character come together in a time of crisis to forgive familial faults. Some of the interactions may also be a little too realistic when it comes to family connections so as not to be construed as "entertainment". However the performances in this simple family movie make up for the lack of creativity in its writing. It is a sentimental, easy-to-swallow emotional journey, and that it doesn't flare into heavy dramatics is worth some respect.
Susan Sarandon and Sam Shepard are the quirky and dysfunctional parents of eight brothers (played by Robert Sean Leonard, Sean Astin, etc). Sarandon is always packing and repacking and threatening to move out of the house with humorous melodrama while Shepard has constant headaches and moments of psychosomatic blindness that are caused by stress. One of the brothers is in the military and the film takes place during the time of the Gulf War. All of the family converges from various parts of the globe in order to be together, in wait for news of their brother/son, who is missing.
What unfolds for the next two hours is Sarandon trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She sees her life up to this point as an uncontrollable whirlwind, from being married to being a parent. She wants to regain some form of personal focus on her own needs. This mixes well with the variety of brothers who are still defining lifestyles outside the home. The next component is how these disparate components mix and match with one another once they've re-gathered under the same roof, offset with brief flashbacks to clarifying moments of their childhoods. What's intriguing about these character studies is how well rounded the characters are, even while being diametrically opposed to one another. Most character explorations in this mold tend to use a single character trait per person, but thankfully this film doesn't fall under those stereotypes.
Robert Sean Leonard plays the oldest and most eager to take responsibility of the brothers and the scenes between him and Sarandon are priceless. Her retaliatory sarcasm beautifully mingles with his acerbic wit. Leonard has the most screen time of any of the siblings, but the others still get their chance to evolve in a naturalistic and collaborative way through the rest of the film.
The movie remains enjoyable despite its predictability because of the chemistry between characters. It's familiar, realistic, sympathetic territory but the expected finale still provokes genuine smiles. It's not particularly "important" or "provocative" but it is a pleasant, entertaining portrait of a dysfunctional family learning how to work on reaching compromises. The end is clear from the start, but it's rather amusing to watch nonetheless, backed by a strong, eclectic cast.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Sunday 1st January 1995
Distributed by: Turner Home Entertainment
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 6
Cast & Crew
Director: Robert Allan Ackerman