Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Safety Not Guaranteed

Reviews - Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Reviewed By John Stakes

Safety Not Guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed
You are glancing at the Reminder's ads page and you come across the following:-

"Wanted. Somebody to go back in time with.
This is not a joke.
PO Box 91 Solway View CA
You’ll get paid after we get back.
Must bring own weapons
Safety not guaranteed
I have only done this once before".

What would you do? Dismiss the whole thing as a juvenile prank or would you be sufficiently curious to take up the offer? This was the first of several intriguing questions posed by last Sunday’s low budget (£500K) feel-good film from first time US director Colin Trevorrow.

The second question, assuming you wanted to travel, would be why? What would be the reason to risk all? The third query would be "could it be done"? For the answer to the second question we had to look to the young man who placed the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a stock controller in his local convenience store in Ocean View. Kenneth is paranoid and believes that secret agents are watching his every move. But is he also bonkers?

Into Kenneth's routine life comes Darius (Aubrey Plaza), sent by her college magazine editor Bridget along with one of its writers Jeff (Jake Johnson), and Arnau (Karan Soni) to cover the story (which is fact based as far as the ad is concerned). Darius, a somewhat disaffected student, warms to Kenneth and offers to accompany him on his epic journey. But does she believe him? Their motivations for journeying back to the past differ but they are linked by death: Kenneth wants to see his old girlfriend Belinda (Kristen Bell) and prevent the car accident which he believes caused her death in 2001 (a nod to another space odyssey perhaps?). Darius wants to stop the death of her mother who died when she was fourteen.

So, a sort of a joint guilt trip teams them up as they prepare. Unlike the HG Wells or Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future") versions, we are not whisked away on a raft of special effects straight after the opening scene, or indeed at all. In fact we are pleasingly rooted in the present for much of the film as Trevorrow teasingly delays the day of departure, to allow time to explore the realities of life and relationships with our feet firmly on the ground.

Of course it is not necessary to time travel to enable each of the film's leads to revisit their past. In one of the side plots we learn that Jake has an ulterior motive to visit Ocean View: to track down an old flame Liz who is now part of the beach scene community. She turns out not to be quite the looker he remembered but they reconnect. Bridget's archive search reveals not only that Belinda is still alive, but that Kenneth drove her in his car and crashed it into the wall of her real boyfriend's house. Darius confronts Kenneth who interprets all this as (wait for it) proof that his previous time travelling to save her must have worked...a neat little plot point as to Kenneth's ability to time travel and keep us guessing!

Kenneth also turns out to be right about Government agents when they materialise and confront the team. Darius is forced to admit her journalist credentials causing the disheartened Kenneth to flee to the woods pursued by her, and to a lakeside mooring where, together, they start up the time machine which is...a boat no less! But this one has been apparently customised for time travel with a large wheel at its aft and some stolen rocket parts. But does it function as a time machine? For the answer to that final question dear reader you needed to be on board with last Sunday's audience.

Trevorrow kept this transition into adulthood but fairy-tale indie flic on a captivating even keel throughout. The ensemble acting was engaging to the point of tugging the occasional heartstring. Aubrey Plaza was quite delightful as Darius, complete with a wonderful array of facial expressions. Duplass also impressed as a nerd-like weirdo who seemed equally at home in his own fantasy and the real world.

The award winning screenplay by Derek Connolly was pitch-perfect with the ebb and flow of pain and pleasure. He peppered his script with "cool", laugh-out-loud witticisms which helped to suspend disbelief and keep the confection from becoming laden with sentimentality. Complete with a jaunty musical score Trevorrow's charming film picked up various other accolades twixt Gotham City and Tel Aviv, and Keswick's audience found it a hugely enjoyable antidote to some of the heavier material on display this season.

Next Sunday’s film is also a time travelling opus of sorts, from past to future. "Cloud Atlas" with its stellar cast (Hanks, Berry, Grant, Sarandon) has divided audiences since its release. It’s all about...well what you make of it really. Three hours of Andy and Lan Wachowsky's take on our world, crammed full of drama, comedy, politics and special effects. The thinking person’s Matrix perhaps and well worth seeking out apparently.

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19th Keswick Film Festival

22nd-25th February 2018


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