Safe (1995 film)

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Safe ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Todd Haynes
Produced by Christine Vachon
Written by Todd Haynes
Starring Julianne Moore
Peter Friedman
Xander Berkeley
Music by Brendan Dolan
Ed Tomney
Cinematography Alex Nepomniaschy
Edited by James Lyons
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • June 30, 1995 (1995-06-30)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Box office $512,245

Safe (sometimes written as [safe] or [SAFE]) is a 1995 British/American drama film written and directed by Todd Haynes, and produced by Christine Vachon. It was voted the best film of the 1990s in the 1999 Village Voice Film Poll.


Set in an affluent neighbourhood of the San Fernando Valley in 1987, the film recounts the life of a seemingly unremarkable homemaker, Carol White (Julianne Moore) who develops multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS, also known as "Twentieth-Century Disease"). MCS is a medically controversial diagnosis in which a person develops mild to severe non-specific symptoms and believes that these symptoms are triggered by chemicals found in everyday household and industrial products.

Carol passes her days with activities such as gardening, taking clothes to the dry cleaners, and attending aerobics classes. Her marriage is stable but devoid of emotional intimacy, and her son is actually a stepson from her husband's previous marriage. Her friendships are polite but distant.

As she goes about her routine, she slowly begins to develop unpredictable and strange bodily reactions, such as persistent fatigue, uncontrollable coughing (when surrounded by truck exhaust while driving), asthma-like symptoms (at a baby shower), nose bleeds (when getting a perm at a hair salon), vomiting, and eventually convulsions (at the dry cleaners).

Doctors are able to identify only one true allergy: milk, which she drinks frequently in the movie without incident. Doctors are at a loss of how to help her cope or cure her. She attends some psychotherapy sessions, but does not gain any insight into her condition.

After seeing an ad at her community centre, she eventually resorts to moving to the New Age/religious retreat in the desert called Wrenwood, which is designed to help people suffering from MCS recover and is led by a man whose "relentless motivational talks amount to psychological fascism."[1]



Safe received positive reviews from critics, and currently holds an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 52 reviews.[2][3]


  • 1996 Independent Spirit Awards - Nominated for Best Director (Todd Haynes), Best Feature, Best Female Lead (Julianne Moore), and Best Screenplay (Todd Haynes)
  • 1995 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards - Best Cinematography - Alex Nepomniaschy
  • 1995 Seattle International Film Festival - American Independent Award - Todd Haynes
  • 1996 Rotterdam International Film Festival - FIPRESCI Prize Special Mention - Todd Haynes


  1. ^ Gonsalves, Rob (21 May 2006). "Safe (1995)". E-Film Critic. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (23 June 1995), "Life of a Hollow Woman", New York Times, retrieved 4 January 2015 
  3. ^ Safe, Flixster, Inc., 2015, retrieved 4 January 2015 

External links[edit]