There is not one bad character in the entire length and breadth of Safety. And I am okay with that. Really. We have enough negativity and ugliness to deal with in real life. The movies should give us the opposite. And Safety doe. In ample measures. It is a full-blown feel-happy movie with dollops of cheering life-reinforcing sunshine spots for us to bask in. And to know this is a true story and not some concocted Disney fluff stuff is even more reassuring. Yes, we will survive this crisis as long as we care enough for humanity, put aside our narrow interests and pitch our tents in the heart of civilization.
Safety is about a promising black football player Ray McElrathbey ( Jay Reeves)who braves tremendous hardships to win a football scholarship to Clemson University. But then the unexpected happens. Ray has to take guardianship of his kid brother. The struggle to play guardian and to keep his academic world intact is strikingly adumbrated by Jay Reeves who has practically no experience as an actor. He looks every inch the harried ingenue. But the real star of this happy-go-looking endeavour is young Thaddeus J. Mixson. As Jay’s kid brother Fahmarr, little Mr Mixson with his large pleading eyes and a demeanour that suggests much resilience in the face of adversity, steals the show from all the adults.
No wonder he soon has them all eating out of the palm of his hands. Even the campus authorities including the coaches, agree to bend rules so that young Fahmarr can be spared a remand home.No one gets all teary eyes and sacrificial. It’s all done in the spirit of if-not-now-then-when? It is a poignant story with tremendous potential for dramatic tension. The director Reginald Hudlin keeps the proceeding on an even emotional pitch. There are scenes with the heroes’ mother in drug rehabilitation that could have eventuated in a tsunami of tears. The director keeps the tears in check. There is a life to be lived. You can’t afford to mope around feeling sorry for yourself. At least Ray can’t. His uphill task is to be a father to his sibling and fair to his own ambitions.
The tears are held in check as the highly emotional story heads gently towards its (predictable) courtroom finale. There is nothing here that you can’t see coming. But that’s the whole charm of this heartwarming film. It offers the comfort of the familiar. To watch the entire campus pitching in to help Ray without patronizing him is to know humanity will survive. The Covid be damned.
Directed by Reginald Hudson, Safety gets 3 and a half stars!
Image source: Youtube/Netdarkness, Instagram/disneystudios