The Review/Short Read/

Hump Day Movie: Safety Not Guaranteed

Watch this low budget science fiction rom-com from the man would eventually bring you Jurassic World

by
Jun 1, 2016

Summer indie season is upon us! All across the land, cinemas will be filled with films that are at once "quirky" and "off-beat." There will be innocuous suburban locations. Meticulously constructed soundtracks. Zach Braff might even be there. Am I describing Garden State? Kind of, yes. Sorry.

For a taste of one of my favourite summer indie films of all time, get your time travel on with Colin Trevorrow's excellent 2012 movie Safety Not Guaranteed. Inspired by a true story (and a profiled on a popular episode of the podcast Reply All), it starts with Jeff Schwensen (played by the incomparable Jake Johnson) pitching a story for Seattle alternative weekly based on a classified ad. It reads:

WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.

Jeff goes to investigate the advertisement's writer with the assistance of two interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni). They track down the author, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a grocery clerk with very serious intentions of going back in time. With her journalism career in mind, Darius begins to train with Kenneth, learning his reasons for trying to go back in time and eventually sharing her own. They get closer at risk to both her career and their emerging relationship.

The beauty of this slow burning comedy is that it is both a time travel narrative and a character study. Jeff only proposed investigating the classified ad in an effort to go and try to win back his high school girlfriend. Darius has been shaped by a very specific loss. Kenneth devotes his life to the single-minded pursuit of righting a wrong. Whether or not time travel is possible isn't the point. It's that each person is their own planet and sometimes, they can come together to create an even larger universe. Directed carefully and lovingly by Colin Trevorrow (which earned him Jurassic World and an upcoming film in the new Star Wars franchise), this movie demonstrates that anyone can be more than the sum of their parts. Safety Not Guaranteed shows that the world we live in contains fantastical mystery, even when it's hidden in the mundane. Its calibrations are flippin' pinpoint.