On October 5th 2017 the New York Times published an article that would change the world as we know it. Written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the article in question detailed decades of sexual misconduct committed by one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, Harvey Weinstein.
Since then western societies social attitudes have, for the most part, improved, as rape, sexual assault and political correctness are finally being taken seriously in mainstream discourse, but there is still much more understanding to be done. Although we are now making bigger steps towards social harmony, it hasn’t come without its fair share of confrontation and ignorance.
Safe Spaces is written and directed by Daniel Schechter and tells the story of Josh Cohen, played by Justin Long. Josh is a junior professor in New York whose reputation has been damaged after innocently pressuring a student into divulging personal information to the class as part of his creative writing lecture.
Although well intentioned and the girl involved in this exchange having no issue with this situation, another girl in his class did, thus resulting in a boycott of his lectures. Josh is asked by the college to apologize to the girl, but refuses as he doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong and so his apology would be empty.
As Josh struggles to defend his reputation at work, he simultaniously finds himself struggling to connect with his distant girlfriend, eccentric mother, feminist sister and family man brother as his Grandma fights for her life in the hospital.
Plus to add another spanner in the works of his life, Josh’s father won’t visit Grandma in hospital, despite her being like a mother to him. This is because his father, played by Richard Schiff, has become involuntarily distant from the rest of the family over the years due to his new wife and the child they had together. As events transpire, the film follows Josh as she tries to keep his crumbling reputation and family together, whilst working out what went wrong in his life and what can he do to fix it.
Safe Spaces is a surprisingly complex comedy that bravely explores the sensitivity and controversy of political correctness and cancel culture head on. Painfully important and relevant to today’s social climate, Safe Spaces is fundamentally about our inability to empathize, sympathize or even listen to one another, thus resulting in unnecessary hostility and conflict.
It’s an impressive film to watch, however what is perhaps most impressive about this film is how it uses its comedy to respectfully express and emphasize its themes and educate audiences. Writer, director Daniel Schechter never pokes fun at or make light of sensitive social issues, but instead derives comedy from the white man’s lack understanding of them.
In this way the film is not only funny, but provocative and insightful as it highlights realistic flaws in characters perspectives, such as ignorance, and exposes them for comedic effect. Considering comedy icon’s like Mel Brooks stated that political correctness killed comedy, I have to take my hat off to Daniel Schechter for proving otherwise.
Overall, Safe Spaces is surprisingly one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Daniel Schechter writes and directs a tightrope walk of a film that makes its way safely to the other side without ever losing its footing. Bold, ballsy, and above all, respectful, Safe Spaces is a hilarious comedy that isn’t afraid to address the hard topics and educates us on why we shouldn’t either.
Safe Spaces will be available on Digital Download from December 7th