Set in 1987, Safe follows a suburban housewife in Los Angeles, whose monotonous life is abruptly altered when she becomes sick with a mysterious environmental illnesss.
Safe was described by critics as "the scariest film of the year", "a mesmerizing horror movie", and "a work of feminist counter-cinema". Twenty years after its release, Haynes said its themes—disease and immunity in a post-industrial landscape and how recovery is a burden often put on victims of illness—were even more relevant than they were when he first made the film.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Carol White is a housewife living in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. She passes her days with activities like gardening, aerobics, and seeing friends. Her marriage and family life appear stable but sterile, and her friends are polite yet distant.
Following renovations of the family home, Carol starts experiencing physical symptoms when she is around certain everyday chemicals: she coughs uncontrollably when breathing exhaust fumes from a nearby truck while driving, has breathing difficulties at a baby shower, and she has a nosebleed while getting a perm at a hair salon. As her symptoms worsen, the chemicals that are triggering them seem impossible to avoid. Finally, she has a complete collapse when visiting a store that is fumigated with pesticides.
Doctors have no idea how to cure or help Carol, and aren't able to diagnose her illness. She attends some psychotherapy sessions, but her symptoms don't improve. She finds herself quite alone with the disease, as she experiences stigma and indifference for her community. Accepting that she can no longer function in her current life, she leaves her home, possessions, and life behind. Without her husband, she moves to Wrenwood, an eerie new-age desert community for people with environmental illness. Wrenwood, which has cult-like aspects, is led by a man whose relentless motivational talks amount to "psychological fascism".
Even in a community of people with similar health issues, Carol only seems to become more isolated.
Ultimately, Safe presents no answer for Carol's illness or predicament. Her condition is given no name in the film, but Haynes confirmed that it is a depiction of multiple chemical sensitivity. He also said that Carol's isolation was both the answer and the problem for her.
Trailer[edit | edit source]
Notable people[edit | edit source]
- Todd Haynes - Writer and director
- Julianne Moore - Carol White
- Xander Berkeley - Greg White
Awards[edit | edit source]
- Best Cinematography - Boston Society of Film Critics Awards (1995)
- FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention winner - Rotterdam International Film Festival (1996)
- American Independent Award - Seattle International Film Festival (1995)
- Best Film of the Decade - Village Voice Film Poll (1999)
Reviews[edit | edit source]
Articles and blogs[edit | edit source]
Online presence[edit | edit source]
- Official website
Learn more[edit | edit source]
- Internet movie database (imdb)
- Todd Haynes Q&A | Safe", Retrospective of Todd Haynes films (video interview)
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- ""Todd Haynes Q&A | Safe", Retrospective of Todd Haynes films". Film at Lincoln Center, YouTube. November 25, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Kempley, Rita (August 4, 1995). "Safe". Washington Post. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
- Geller, Theresa L. "The Hardest, The Most Difficult Film: Todd Haynes’ Safe as Feminist Film Praxis or what the fuck is this” or “An Indelible Mark: Women and the Work of Todd Haynes”, a presentation, Grinnell College, 2013. page 6.
- Gonsalves, Rob (May 21, 2006). "Safe (1995)". E-Film Critic. Retrieved December 6, 2014.
- "Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore on Safe". CriterionCollection, YouTube. Retrieved October 30, 2019.