Safelight – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Initial Thoughts

While Juno Temple, the main reason I decided to watch this, isn’t what you would call consistent in choosing good movies to be in, nonetheless, she does choose the most interesting ones.

Characters & Story

Somewhere out in California is a young man named Charles (Evan Peters). He is an aspiring father, someone whose mom has long left, brother died in Vietnam and has a sickly father named Eric (Jason Beghe). His life is rather mundane, with him working at a local truck stop, with his father’s friend Peg (Christine Lahti), who acts a surrogate mother at times and sometimes hanging out with her.

Things change though when a local sex worker, Vicki (Juno Temple), is getting roughed up by her pimp Skid (Kevin Alejandro), and he decides to step in. With his heroic act comes her seeing him in a different light and getting to know him, letting him get to know her, and them both exposing the darkness of their past and trying to help the other have a more stable and positive future.

Praise

To be honest, there isn’t anything which I can pinpoint worth praising. Not to imply this movie is bad or anything, but no performance really stands out, no one’s backstory brings me to tears, and it just overall doesn’t have that oomph you expect dramas to hit you with. Hell, even with this being a Juno Temple film, it isn’t even that weird and I’m 75% sure she pretty much chooses her indie roles based on how weird the characters are.

Criticism

As noted in the faux-praise section, this film doesn’t really pursue the depths of the characters to the point of allowing you to connect with them. For while we learn Charles lost his brother, his mother, and is in the process of losing his father, the movie treats said issues, as well as his limp, the same way you might if you was him – by not talking about it. Which does add a sense of realism, I guess, but it makes the viewing experience lack the emotional depth needed to care about those on screen. Same goes for Vicki. We are introduced to her being a sex worker, likely due to being pressured by her boyfriend/ pimp Skid, but everything is rushed when it comes to understanding how she ended up in such a position.

I mean, we are told that it began with an abusive father, then a mother who found a boyfriend who wanted Vicki more than her mom, which led to her being kicked out. A story which has a good build, but with the movie having us see Vicki interact with her mom, and little sisters, and said scenes being short, shallow, and not really confronting the issue, it leaves you wanting more – in a bad way. Hell, going back to the topic of Skid, I’m at a lost as to how, and why, she got with him. Mostly because he seems like a coke head and she doesn’t necessarily speak of there being good times.

Making it so the past doesn’t provide much in the way of insight or a good foundation; and the present, as cute as it is watching Charles and Vicki get close, doesn’t provide what is needed to feel a sense of empathy, nor even feel like, by the movie’s end, we truly got to know more than the basic facts about these two characters.

Overall: TV Viewing

Despite the lack of praise, this isn’t in anyway a bad movie. It is one of the few I have honestly sat through, without being distracted, but if you watch as much movies as I do, it makes average films like these just seem mediocre to a certain point. For with no emotional impact, an almost avoidance of characters talking about what seriously bothers them, and an anti-climactic ending, at best this is a TV Viewing type of film. One which only isn’t put in “Skip It” since there are no outright reasons to hate it.

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