17 December 2004 | colettesplace
Powerful but understated film with multiple meanings and a bravura performance from Julianne Moore
Although it's been almost ten years since filmmaker Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven) made Safe, the film's only secured cinematic release in Australia in 2004. As Safe quietly satirises the 80s, the delayed release improves it, adding another layer of perspective to a heroine who lives life in a series of bubbles.
It's 1987, and timid California housewife Carol (a young Julianne Moore) is immersed in upper-middle class minutiae ensuring her couch is the right colour, sleepwalking through a tepid aerobics class, and submitting to her husband (Greg White from 24). But gradually cracks appear in this pristine life, tiredness, unexplained illness
until she is diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity. She then moves to Wrenwood, a healing retreat founded by the charismatic Peter (Peter Friedman) but will this solve her problem? Or is it just another escape? Safe is a very interesting film about a woman so overwhelmed by her environment that she becomes allergic to it. Writer and director Haynes has combined aspects of the disease film (e.g. Love Story) with the psychological thriller as Carol doesn't know what triggers her symptoms, the audience never knows when she'll have another attack.
While Haymes criticises the New Age belief that illness is psychologically-based, in Carol's case, it's impossible to separate the psychological and physical aspects of her illness. The cinematography shows her dwarfed by her environment and Haymes offers no easy solutions. ***½/***** stars.