Narrative by Daniel Schechter
This charming family comedy is written and directed by Daniel Schechter, a New York based filmmaker who has been in the business for over 15 years. It stars Justin Long as Josh Cohn, a New York City professor who is trying to juggle the stresses of love, family and workplace behavior in a very 2019 world. The film deals with many themes, like the Me Too movement and race relations, without offering much of an answer to the questions it poses. Instead, the audience is given insight into how people cope, react, feel and fail in an engaging and realistic way. Long gives a very compelling performance, bolstered by a fantastic supporting cast, including Fran Dresher as Cohn’s mother.
In the director’s statement for Safe Spaces, writer/director Daniel Schechter states that his inspiration for the film came from his own experiences of teaching at colleges for the last few years. He mentions the hardships of finding his own voice as a teacher while sometimes clashing with students and learning how to voice opinions while also respecting others. It seems like it was a real eye-opening experience for him as he says, “It was an exciting time for me. Along with my young nieces, I was marching in the Women’s March, while my students exposed me to a new generation’s attitudes towards sexuality, gender politics and race. I found myself, genuinely, growing.” Schechter seamlessly weaves this personal experience into his narrative, and he handles the situations Josh Cohn faces with great care. The social issues, however, do not serve as the main plot device or character motivation. Ultimately, the story is about family and how Josh struggles to reconnect. The modern, messy family portrayed in the film is very relatable and wonderfully executed. Schechter says, “My family is a safe space and this fictional family is a love letter to them, warts and all.” I think he succeeded in honoring his family and this delightful film is all the better for it.