here are some moments that we fixate on; first kisses, words spoken that we wish we could take back. But the march of time goes on and those moments— the small and the big slip— by into memory.
Safety Not Guaranteed is about these moments. On it’s a face, it’s a time travel movie. But at its beating heart, it’s a funny, strange and poignant film that begs the question; if we could change one moment, would we?
Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an intern at a Seattle magazine assigned to assist Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) with an article based on a classified ad that seeks a companion to travel back in time. With intern Arnau (Karan Soni) in tow, the trio head to the sleepy oceanside town of Ocean View of to track down the person who placed the ad and give Jeff a convenient excuse to track down a summer love from many years ago.
Darius finds Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a gentle giant of a man who seems to harbour paranoid delusions of government agents tracking him because he has figured out the secret to time travel. The two bond as they learn about each other’s own painful pasts.
Plaza essentially plays a more developed version of her sardonic character April from Parks and Recreation. For this film it works well. Darius has a steely exterior that drops away as she allows Kenneth to enter her life. They’re two lifelong outsiders who have finally found someone to connect with.
All four of the protagonists have something they wish they can change in their lives. Some are simple wishes— like Arnau’s desire to check in his V-card at long last— and others are more complicated. When Jeff finds his lost love, he finds his own materialistic life throws up barriers to rekindling what he hoped was true love.
The themes may be heavy but the film doesn’t feel that way; mostly because it’s hilarious. Johnson as hip Jeff in particular steals most of the show with his sarcastic asides and boozing.
Safety Not Guaranteed doesn’t provide all the answers. People looking for a typical rom-com ending will not be happy. But the film is emotionally satisfying in that it is optimistic about our ability to fall in love and yes, make the most of those little moments.