Let’s get the warning out of the way first: Safety Not Guaranteed, at its heart, is a romantic comedy.
Guys, you have been warned.
The good news, by far, is that it’s much more comedy than it is romantic AND it’s not one of those comedies where you have to check your brain in as you enter the theatre. It does involve a guying trying to time travel, which is un-real, but the film is about the human journey rather than any metaphysical one. It’s about connection and understanding and it’s entertaining in the way it delivers.
The film centers on three employees of a magazine (Jeff and his two interns, Darius and Arnau) who go in search of a story, the spark for which is a short ‘want’ ad in a newspaper written by an eccentric named Kenneth.
After the self-absorbed Jeff fails in making contact, they go down the time-honoured path of using the girl to make the connection. Darius and Kenneth do indeed connect, which is the romantic part of the movie. They do stay focused on the mission, however, and we follow Kenneth’s rather erratic but endearing journey to complete his time machine and train his apprentice.
The side stories of Jeff looking up his high-school ex and the geeky Arnau’s coming-of-age are minor distractions. The film wouldn’t have lost anything if they’d been left on the cutting-room floor. But then one of the very few disappointing parts of this film is that it’s only 85 minutes long and without those side stories it would have been even shorter.
Kenneth and Darius’ journey keeps you guessing and hoping. You can tell there’s a genuine connection building but Darius is also there to do a job – to gather information about Kenneth for what was supposed to be a light-entertainment magazine story. Her conflict of interest becomes more apparent as the film progresses.
The question as to Kenneth’s sanity or genius is held right until the end, too. One clue emerges about the outcome but it would have been nice if the writers had built a few more ‘easter eggs’ in there, too. I’m sure it would have been possible. The good part is that whilst the end goal for Kenneth and Darius is to travel back in time, the nerdspeak is non-existant. It’s a film with a science fiction goal but with no science whatsoever, which puts the focus right where it belongs – on the people.
Safety Not Guaranteed is light and pleasant, sweet and funny, but without insulting anyone’s intelligence along the way. It’s relatable and very, very watchable. It could do with another 10 minutes to tease out what happens to Kenneth and Darius, but perhaps it’s better that you can make up your own ending in conversation afterwards.
Mrs Swade enjoyed it and I have to say that I really enjoyed it, too.
Cue the trailer….