Picks and Pans Review: Safe Passage

UPDATED 01/23/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/23/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

Susan Sarandon, Sam Shepard

It's bad enough that Sarandon is estranged from her husband (Shepard) and frustrated in her attempts to become a social worker. She has also been having a recurring dream that something terrible is about to happen to one of her sons. She has seven of them, so it's a bit difficult to pinpoint just which one is marked for disaster. Fiercely maternal—she wrestles a neighbor's vicious dog to the ground when the canine leaps at her youngest son—and famously cranky, she's trying hard to figure out where her family ends and she begins. "I was 35, " she notes ruefully, "before I had a dinner where I wasn't cutting someone else's meat."

Shepard has his own problems: lately, for no reason evident to a phalanx of medical specialists, he has been losing, then regaining, his sight. Husband and wife are thrust back together, and five of their sons are drawn back home when it looks like one of Sarandon's terrible dreams is about to come true. While the family waits anxiously for the phone to ring, for the doorbell to sound, they replay old videos, open old wounds, tap old memories and affirm life. Safe Passage is so self-consciously and aggressively bittersweet that it's hard to get involved in the family's plight, hard to summon the energy to figure out which son is which. What makes the movie bearable is the utter conviction Sarandon brings to her role. Now sardonic, now pragmatic, now brittle to the point of breaking, she's a mother who fears she has never known best and a woman who fears she is never going to have her turn at bat. (PG-13)

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