The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - SAFE INSIDE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - SAFE INSIDE

A pair of American lovers find themselves trapped in a sinister scenario when they take a job as groundskeepers at a French estate.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Renata Gabryjelska

Starring: Andrea Tivadar, Tom Ainsley, Steven Brand, Joanna Kulig

When you think of European thrillers of the 1970s and '80s you think of logic defying narratives, an abundance of style and actors of various nationalities performing with dodgy accents. Polish director Renata Gabryjelska's featue debut Safe Inside feels like a throwback to such an era, though it's sadly nowhere near as fun as your classic euro-thriller. It's daft as a brush but insists on playing its silly premise with a straight face, right down to ending with a wedge of text that tries to convince us the madness we just witnessed is grounded in some sort of scientific fact.

The film opens quite conventionally, as young American couple Ana (Andrea Tivadar) and Tom (Tom Ainsley) arrive at the rural French estate of Richard (Steven Brand), who has hired them to tend to the grounds for €200 a day. Immediately, Tom starts treating his host/employer in the most obnoxious fashion imaginable, spurred perhaps by jealousy, as Ana seems won over by Richard's cultured European ways.

Richard is essentially a modern cousin of the sort of rich eccentrics played by Bela Lugosi and George Zucco in 1930s programmers. He's certainly dapper, but there's something not quite right about him. What's he hiding in the barn, which he commands Ana to stay away from? Why are all the books in his library incomplete? Why do the records in his vinyl collection refuse to play more than mere snippets of songs?

The answer, when it comes, is actually quite intriguing. Without spoiling things, let's just say the movie takes a turn into the type of premise Christopher Nolan might wish he had thought of. On the evidence of her debut, Gabryjelska is no Nolan however, and she struggles to communicate the rules of the fantasy world her protagonists find themselves in. We're left scratching our heads as to how all this is happening, and when we're given answers we're only confused even further.

For this sort of storytelling to work, the movie needs to double down on its insanity. We're dealing with a sort of dream logic here, which gives a filmmaker a lot of creative licence to go all out on the crazy visuals. Gabryjelska appears to have no such stylistic inclinations, and her movie maintains its bland soap opera aesthetic throughout.

It doesn't help that aside from Brand, who admittedly doesn't convince as a Frenchman, the acting is amateurish here. Tivadar is a British-Romanian actress whose American accent continually cracks mid-sentence, and she rarely conveys the distress her character is under. Fellow Brit Ainsley pulls off a decent US accent but he seems uncomfortable with dialogue that very much feels like it's been written by someone for whom English is a second language. With its knockout twist, Safe Inside probably sounded like a winner in a pitch meeting, but the resulting feature film fails to capitalise on its potential, and like its young protagonists, you'll probably want to leave its environs early.

Safe Inside
 is on UK/ROI Digital from June 7th.