College was the first time I was exposed to Todd Haynes work. My school did a screening of the luscious Far from Heaven and soon after that my friends and I rented the trippily fun Velvet Goldmine. I loved both of those films and so it's a wonder why I never checked out [safe] until it was chosen for this series. Certainly, it's a film that's still quite well-regarded by critics and film lovers alike and any attention being paid to it now is a credit to the increased renowned of its director Haynes and lead star, and now Academy Award winner, Julianne Moore.
The movie, however, is admittedly not for everyone. Its aesthetics are impeccable, but the story is an uncomfortable watch, which is certainly the point. Moore plays Carol White, a suburban and well-to-do housewife who develops a mysterious illness making her incredibly sensitive to chemicals and the environment. We're never given straightforward proof what her illness entails, but be it psychological, physiological, or both, it forces her to change her lifestyle moving to a new-age retreat. In picking my favorite shot then, I first want to talk about that unique ending.
Most movies would show us the protagonist overcoming their illness or completely and hopelessly succumbing to it. [safe] plays it slightly more ambiguously as Carol looks at her sad reflection in the mirror of her equally sad-looking hermetically sealed room. And yet, she finds the strength to declaratively say "I love you" to her reflection, to herself. Rewind to an earlier part of the film when she was still living in her well-kept house and my pick for best shot:
This shot, while relatively dark, is still full of colors and trappings of her suburban homemaker life which provide contrast to that final scene of the film. Here she is turning her back to everything she knew and loved. Her husband, the rest of her house she most likely decorated all by herself, and most especially herself. Notice that the mirror reflects all of this, but she's unable to look at any it, to accept her situation. She has no idea what's happening to her and it's more than frustrating as she utters helplessly to her husband, " I know it's not normal." This film is not "normal" as well and thank goodness for that.