Steve Leadbetter’s review published on Letterboxd:
Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed is cinematically alluring. Shortly after watching it, I was standing in the shower wondering just how on earth you can either pigeonhole or even suitably convey the feel and style of the film. This is, admittedly, indie on a classic scale, conjuring everything you would expect. With a budget well shy of a million bucks, this superlative film from Trevorrow is testament to what real, hungry, aching talent can achieve, with or without huge budgets.
It's not all just pretty pictures and delicate framing, however. (though it does have those too) There is a slight, almost imperceptible delight going on in almost every scene, a wry, hand-covered chuckle at society's foibles in each careful step. Seeing as this comes from the same producers that brought us Little Miss Sunshine, it is no surprise that this screenplay from Derek Connolly is nuanced, sometimes poignant and always deeply considered.
The story is about ostensibly concenring itself with the lives of two main characters, those being Darius,(Aubrey Plaza) a young and pretty intern at a Seatlle newspaper, who has always struggled for acceptance and lacks any real ability (or desire) to fit in with those around her. She fits the often cast and regularly misunderstood mould of an ingenue in almost every sense, except perhaps her wilful scorn of others and her sometimes fiery independence.
And Kenneth (Mark Duplass). This is a an enigma of a man who put an advertisment in the paper (see above), in all seriousness, asking for a partner to join him on his time travelling trip. The partner must fit certain particular criteria including having their own weapons, but they must also be aware that their safety is not guaranteed. Duplass is stunning in the role of Kenneth, and you're never sure whether he is completely barking mad, or actually has something coherent behind his occasionally uncomfortable but alway earnest approach to his blinkered task. Either way, this really becomes secondary to watching Duplass deliver one of the best performances of his career so far.
This advert piques some half-hearted semi-interest from Darius' boss Jeff, played by New Girl's Jake Johnson, a tired and funny hack that has his own agenda for wanting to take the story. He plans to visit an old girlfriend while his interns, Darius and Arnau (played perfectly limply by Karan Soni) do the legwork and write the story.
When Darius becomes involved with Kenneth, undercover as it were, playing the part of an interested partner, rather than a nosey (not really)wannabe journalist, she begins to admire those elements that make this man stand out. Initially cynical, as Darius becomes more embroiled, so her inital scepticism softens. She knows, of course, that he's just a very enthusiastic nerd, but she appreciates that this quirkiness is a quality she finds appealing. He is out of kilter with the rest of us, much like she believes she is and so reckons she has found a kindred spirit to relate to.
As Jeff meets and subsequently beds his old girlfriend, despite admitting to his interns after their first meeting that the years had not been kind to her, Darius starts to fall for Kenneth an his unusual view of things. Arnau spends most of his time staring furiously at his laptop screen in almost every scene, hoping to not notice all of those thing around him that will make him blush. Twenty-one he may be, but as Jeff tells him quite categorically, he won't be forever, as he tries to encourage him into losing his virginity.
None of the characters are too comples for any audience, but they are equally reliable and recognisable as they are appealing and watchable. Connolly's script is deft and funny, sometimes brutal in its honesty. Add Trevorrow's brilliant, inspired direction and you have a great team that has a true eye for realistic emotional drama with it's fair share of comedy and a dash of science thrown in, just to impress an already grateful audience.
Great stuff. Out in the UK on Boxing Day. Go on, buy yourself a really decent Christmas present this year. This is not the last time I will mention the word 'Oscars' this year, but it is the first time I have mentioned it. Hopefully they will market this to death next season, to give it every rightful chance of at least a mention.
Spoil yourself and buy a ticket.