An affluent and unexceptional homemaker in the suburbs develops multiple chemical sensitivity.

1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 18 Aug 2015 - 11:21 AM

It's come as a bit of a surprise to hear that Todd Haynes 1994 film Safe is finally getting a cinema release here, opening soon in Melbourne with other states to follow in mid-May. Safe stars Julianne Moore as a woman stranded in a toxic designer landscape. Carol White, Julianne Moore, is living an affluent life in the San Fernando Valley of California in 1987 with her husband Greg, Xander Berkely and a stepson. Yet it's an arid life, her relationship with Greg lacks passion and her friendships with other women are more perfunctory than meaningful. One day driving home behind a van spewing carbon monoxide Carol has a coughing fit. Her health gradually deteriorates with no physical explanation, doctors, psychiatrists don't seem to have an answer. Finally, after following up an advertisement at her local gym, Carol heads to a retreat in the desert country of Albuquerque called Wrestwood, a 'new age' sanctuary for those suffering from environmental illness, people who are allergic to the 20th century. This is an extraordinary second film from Todd Haynes made after Poison. His ability to present a film with such ambivalence and yet have you riveted is possibly due to the fact that you' re caught between almost laughing at situations and then being completely unable to because Carol's pain is so palpable. The film is poised on an ultra thin line between satire and tragedy. Carol is a woman in deep trouble environmentally, socially and spiritually who's given amazing grace by Julianne Moore's heartbreakingly fragile performance. All performances are absolutely tops. Haynes opts for long shots with Carol adrift in sterile and yet toxic spaces. His use of Ed Tomney's music augments the discomfort. This film is not a laugh a minute, but it has so much talent in it and in the making of it, it's irresistible.