Safe Place (2022)

This deliberately-paced and quietly introspective Croatian drama is bleak yet also an utterly personal and intimate look at the topic of suicide, opening the possibility for grief to gurgle to the surface as art tries to heal by the side.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,596

Dir. Juraj Lerotic
2022 | Croatia | Drama | 102 min | 1.66:1 | Croatian
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for mature theme

Cast: Juraj Lerotic, Goran Markovic, Snjezana Sinovcic
Plot: A traumatic event – a sudden suicide attempt – opens a gap in the everyday life of a family of three. Their lives change fundamentally as if they’ve been pulled into a war invisible to everyone else.
Awards: Won Best First Feature, Best Actor, Best Emerging Director – Filmmakers of the Present (Locarno)
International Sales: Cercamon

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – Suicide & Depression; Family in Crisis
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: Screener – Singapore Film Society Showcase
Spoilers: No

Croatian filmmaker Juraj Lerotic had the honour of having his feature debut selected as his country’s official submission to the 2023 Oscars for Best International Feature. 

Safe Place, as it is called, is a promising work that deals with the sensitive topic of suicide, something that is utterly personal to the director.  Lerotic himself stars as Bruno, who becomes extremely distressed when he receives an SOS alert from his brother Damir, whom he doesn’t know is suicidal. 

As a film about the silent destructive killer that has destroyed and continues to destroy many individuals and families worldwide, Safe Place is incredibly intimate in its treatment, giving us an authentic ground-zero look at the psychological impact of depression on loved ones. 

“He says he thinks he made a mistake, and he won’t try doing it again.”

Lerotic’s film is certainly bleak and deliberately paced, almost teetering towards the art of ‘slow cinema’, but it is the quietly introspective mood that provides the platform for a calmness of mind to emerge.  But can calmness overcome the dark waves of anguish and torment?  Damir wants to die, but Bruno and their mother are desperate to save him. 

Even though Safe Place might feel like neverending misery for its characters, by envisioning and completing the film, Lerotic places faith in art to heal even as grief gurgles to the surface. 

Winning multiple awards at the Locarno Film Festival, including Best First Feature, Safe Place doesn’t settle for the emotional fireworks that sometimes plague such films; instead, it rewards our patience and empathy and reminds us to always take care of each other’s mental wellness.

Grade: B+


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