Safe (1995)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  

United Kingdom/USA, 1995.  American Playhouse Theatrical Films, Killer Films, Chemical Films, Good Machine, Kardana Productions, Channel Four Films, Arnold Semler, American Playhouse, Kardana Films.  Screenplay by Todd Haynes.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Boston Film Critics Awards 1995.  Independent Spirit Awards 1995New York Film Critics Awards 1995.  

Julianne Moore is brilliant in this terrifying study of a happy housewife in a California suburb.  She enjoys her seemingly unremarkable life until discovering that she is suddenly allergic to the twentieth century: car fumes make her cough violently, artificial cake icing causes her to have an asthma attack, even the chemicals in the fabric of her couch are suddenly dangerous to her. She researches the matter and finds a support group for people with a similar affliction whose bodies are simply not able to cope with modern-day exposures and the audience begins to wonder: are these people really ill, or is it hypochondria on a massive scale.  On the hand, these people seem to have the kind of personality that is attracted to a cult, but on the other hand, the facts about chemical usage in modern day living is no paranoid fantasy (not to mention the amount of victims of this “Environmental Illness” who spent years living near toxic chemical factories before finally seeking help).  Told with a brittle sense of humour between the pragmatic and the bewildered, director Todd Haynes never looks down on his characters and, while the plotting does get the tiniest bit slack towards the last third, the film has a fascinating atmosphere to it that never abates.

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