Too much safety in the home

SAFE PASSAGE Robert Allan Ackerman (15) THE MAN IN MY LIFE Jean Charles Tacchella (12) SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT Ingmar Bergman (PG)

Safe Passage has to be one of the worst film titles of the year: quite apart from the fact that it's tame, nondescript and wholly forgettable, it also, in a screenplay that depends after all on a modicum of suspense, broadcasts the outcome before the opening credits have started to roll. Early one winter's morning, Susan Sarandon wakes up with a terrible premonition. It proves correct: one of her seven grown-up sons - the difficult one, who joined the Marines and is posted in the Sinai desert - may have been killed in a terrorist bombing. As the hours and thedays tick past without news, the clan reunites to settle old scores and share their anxieties. Is the son really in jeopardy? Need you ask?

The movie shapes up as a portrait of a family in crisis: Sarandon's husband, played by Sam Shepard (whose own plays have comprehensively explored the subject), has moved out and is camping in his office; she is restless and resentful that most of her adult life has been spent cutting up other people's meat; there are intimations of tension and rivalry between the sons.

Alas, they all turn out to be boringly well adjusted: there's barely a whiff of dysfunction in the entire brood. The reactionary subtext is that, although she seems at first frustrated, it's a fine, fulfilling job (full, as the film's ominous epigram has it, of "joy and significance") to be a wife and mom. It's slightly surprising to see Sarandon, a prominent Hollywood liberal and feminist, involved with this scenario.

Odd, too, to see the name of another woman, the producer Gale Anne Hurd who has based her career on a stream of action-adventure hits (all with strong, independent roles for their female leads) including Aliens, The Terminator and The Abyss. Safe Passage is a small scale, dialogue-driven domestic drama set almost entirely within a couple of rooms.

The scope could scarcely be narrower: it's one of those American movies that uses a political crisis (and the deaths of hundreds of other unnamed men) as a colourful backdrop to the real drama - what's going on within the four walls of the family home. With bombings in the Middle East back in the news, the head-in-the-sand stance looks even more objectionable.

Still, no film starring Sarandon can be all bad. She fleshes out a dull role, the long-suffering mother, into a character who's difficult, aggressive, infuriating and unpredictable, lending the banal material an edge of constant danger. You keep waiting for her to explode: in vain - the film is, after all, called Safe Passage.

I was thoroughly puzzled by The Man in My Life, directed by Jean Charles Tacchella, who once made Cousin Cousine, a silly, but commercially successful, romantic farce. Half this film appears to be missing as Maria de Medeiros, on the hunt for a rich husband, cuts a bright, erratic swathe through the plot: one minute she's sizing up a man for the job, the next she's back from a disastrous trip to Thailand (which the budget clearly didn't run to showing) and has written him off. A few beats later, she's about to marry yet another character whom we haven't yet seen. Most mysteriously of all, her real love is a hard-up bookseller, a glum, rum, profoundly unsexy individual (Thierry Fortineau) with dubious personal habits and an appalling Bee Gee hairstyle which might have once, circa 1973, almost looked acceptable.

The tone veers as wildly; to call it a comedy is really overstating the matter. The two best scenes, as one would expect in a French film, concern food and sex: the noxious husband, a restaurant critic, railing at the chef for the sea-urchin sauce (without sea-urchins in it) served at his wedding breakfast, while shortly afterwards, in the interests of a speedy divorce, his wife and lover summon a small posse of flics to catch them as they pose obligingly in flagrante.

The name of Ingmar Bergman is not widely associated with levity, and in his memoirs, A Life in Film, he recalls that it was only a long strike in the Swedish film industry in 1951 that forced him to knock off some commercials and comedies to replenish his coffers. He conceived Smiles of a Summer Night while staying in a Swiss hotel next to a clinic for rich roues dying of syphilis, completed it back in Sweden at a boarding house in the company of a young girl recovering from a severe penicillin allergy and shot it while suffering himself from "sickness and depression".

The result, a featherlight comedy about the erotic machinations of a group of couples at a country house party at the turn of the century, has a strong undertow of melancholy, morbidity even, but much surface elegance, sunniness and charm: celebrated homages include Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy and Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.

n All films open tomorrow

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star