Safe Movie Review

I first heard of Safe a good 12 months ago and was instantly intrigued by the film, a story about a woman who becomes sick for no medically detectable reason. Upon seeing the movie, we discover one possibility for her disorder: she is "allergic to the 20th century." Twentieth Century Disease (also known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) is a very frightening, very real disability with no cure. The disorder is brought about by some 60,000 chemicals present in our environment, many of which have devastating effects on MCS sufferers, even present in tiny amounts.

Safe tells the tale of Carol White (Julianne Moore), an otherwise healthy, high-society homemaker who gradually comes down with a number of inexplicable symptoms. It begins with headaches and a rash, and soon spirals until she develops dizziness, nausea, and has a seizure. And things continue to get worse. All the while, none of her doctors can explain a thing. Eventually, Carol discovers the reality of MCS and heads for the Wrenwood Colony, a "safe" zone which is free of pollutants. Here, she begins her inward search to find the true reason for her illness.

Director and writer Todd Haynes does a great job of leaving the cause of Carol's disorder open for debate. Is it just a latent allergy? Or is it psychosomatic? The question is never answered, just as, in Carol's life, it never will be. "It's just for a short time," she says of her stay at Wrenwood. We can feel her pain as it becomes evident that the opposite is most certainly the case. We even feel sorry for her estranged husband, who can't understand Carol's malady.

Regular readers of mine will know by now that Julianne Moore is hands-down my favorite actress on the planet, and Safe marks the best role of her career. Moore easily deserves an Oscar nod, if not the statue, and Haynes deserves recognition for his very, very cool direction.

While sections of the film are weak in comparison to the picture's truly stunning scenes, supporting cast are only fair, and the ending is unsatisfying, Safe still remains one of the most powerful pictures of the year. It should not be missed.

The DVD commentary track, oddly, is very full of mirth from Haynes, Moore, and Christine Vachon. It's an interesting counterpoint to the lack of levity in the film, and only slightly inappropriate.


Safe Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1995


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