This drama/thriller follows a couple Ana (Andrea Tivadar) and Tom (Tomas Ainsley) as they travel to France in search of seasonal work as maintenance workers for a house. While traveling to their destination, their bus gets into an accident. Seemingly unharmed, Ana and Tom find their way to the house. While it appears different than the one advertised, the landowner Richard (Steven Brand) is inviting and offers fair wages. While Tom is wary of Richard, eventually the pair decide to accept the job. At first things seem relatively normal, even idyllic. Soon however, strange occurrences begin to happen and it gradually becomes clear that nothing and no one is what it seems.
Director Renata Gabryjelska and writer Blazej Dzikowski (working off an idea from Gabryjelska) construct a thriller that succeeds in holding the viewer’s attention. This is in part due to the fact that the film puts forth meditations on diverse themes such as; control, what people will do to secure love and companionship, what people will do to survive and so on. While the film is examining all of this, it also does a great job of escalating the tension. From the opening scene, things feel ever-so-slightly off-kilter, but in a way that is difficult to put your finger on as Gabryjelska and the rest of the cast and crew slowly reveal the film’s many facets.
All of the actors do a great job of conveying the complex journeys their characters are going through, particularly Brand as Richard. Throughout the film, it is unclear who Richard is exactly and what his motives and intentions truly are. At different points of the film, Richard seemingly switches from warm and friendly to a more insidious deposition. Brand handles this dichotomy well, playing both faithfully without leaning too hard in either direction or creating the feeling that any side of Richard’s personality comes completely out of nowhere.
Tivadar is also great as Ana, a character who, like the audience, starts the film from a place of confusion as to what is going on. However, as more is revealed to her and the audience, Ana begins to take charge and Tivadar embodies this growth into boldness well.
While the actors do a fine job in their roles grappling with each other and the various themes, a big twist occurs about halfway through the film that completely changes the viewer’s understanding of the story up to that point. While this twist does deepen and even clarify some thematic ideas that were introduced earlier in the film, it also introduces into the film a need to dive into how it changes the story in terms of mechanics and structure. This results in the feeling that while there are changes that occur for the characters and important themes and ideas being discussed, at times it feels as though those aspects go on the backburner in order to focus on the twist itself. Unfortunately this need to divert attention to the twist upsets the unease and suspense generated from the performances and technical work of the film.
Contributing to this feeling of unease is Piotr Kukla’s cinematography, which often tracks in front of characters as they make their way through environments, leading to the feeling that something is lurking around every corner. In addition, Kukla makes effective use of dutch tilts for certain scenes which subtly plants the idea in the viewer’s mind that things are not as they should be.
In addition to visuals, the sound of the film also adds to the feelings of tension and dread. Elia Cmiral’s piano and string laden score is at times unnerving and other times sombre and melancholic. Accompanying this score is great sound design by Michal Fojcik who, during action heavy scenes, incorporates the sounds of a ticking clock, adding to to the kinetic and urgent nature of these scenes and the score.
Safe Inside is a film that features great craftsmanship, strong performances, and offers intriguing ideas for its audience to consider that should please a lot of thriller fans. However, the nature of the film’s plot twist distracts from a lot of the impressive work on display.
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