Watch: Safety Not Guaranteed

Arts & Culture
Directed by Colin Trevorrow (Film District, 2012)

Director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly’s touching sci-fi misadventure about time travel looks like it was made on a small budget, but it offers a lot of bang for those few bucks. This indie comedy about regret, risk, and redemption has a time machine, secret government agents, a slightly mad scientist, and quirky 20- and 30-somethings who might just harbor collections of comic books and Star Wars figurines.

Kenneth (filmmaker and actor Mark Duplass), a small town grocery clerk claiming to have built a time machine in his parents’ garage, posts an advertisement seeking a companion for what he says is his second trip into the past. (Connolly’s storyline was inspired by a real-life ad that appeared in the magazine Backwoods Home in the mid 1990s.) Darius, played with a mix of comic sass and self-deprecating charm by Parks & Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, is one of two interns from a small Seattle magazine who accompanies their boss Jeff (Jake Johnson) to the Oregon beach town where Kenneth works, hoping to get a good story with high entertainment value.

Seeking ulterior motives, Kenneth rejects Jeff’s application, but Darius volunteers to copilot the time machine. Never revealing that she also has another motive, Darius finds herself a like-minded castaway who, like Kenneth, has spent most of her life looking in at the world from the outside. The two share their loneliness: Kenneth wants to save the life of a dead girlfriend, and Darius tells him she hopes to undo her mother’s accidental death.

But the real adventure is always in the present, not the past. And while it is enchanting to think Darius and Kenneth might be able to repair their broken histories, the more interesting question is whether they can each risk trusting one another to build a future together.


This article appeared in the October 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 10, page 50).