Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Julianne Moore, Peter Friedman, Xander Berkeley
One of independent film's best sub-genres is the woman-losing-her-mind psychological thriller. Back in 1965, there was Roman Polanski's Repulsion; in 2011, Martha Marcy May Marlene found breakout star Elizabeth Olsen pissing her bed and weirdly skinny-dipping in response to years spent living with a malevolent cult; and last year, the underrated horror flick Lovely Molly showed what happens when demons mess around with recovering drug addicts.
Todd Haynes' moody, at times trippy character study Safe belongs in that same conversation. Starring Julianne Moore (at her most powerful), it uses a mysterious physical ailment to slowly dissipate its main character's psyche. Sudden nose bleeds and coughing attacks worry her to the point of fleeing to a secluded retreat overseen by an untrustworthy leader (Peter Friedman) who promotes positivity and self-acceptance. And that's when things get really unsettling. —MB