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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory