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'Safe House' Has Structural Flaws

10/13/2002 8:00 PM Eastern

BBC America's upcoming The Safe House is one of those slow, stodgy mysteries that depends on the foolishness of its participants to sustain itself until the end.

Why else would a character confront a suspected murderer while alone, on a boat? One must suspend logic to buy some of the premise.

Central to the film is Dr. Sam Graham (Geraldine Somerville), a trauma psychologist, and her young daughter, Elsie. They've just moved to a picturesque country house on the edge of a marsh when police ask Graham to house a 19-year-old crime victim.

The lodger, Finn, is recovering from a slit throat and is the only survivor of a fatal attack on her parents.

It's unclear what police expect of Graham, since she announces that she doesn't believe in counseling, refuses to prompt the girl to talk about the attack and — according to the plot — failed to recognize the signs of serious clinical depression in her own late husband. No matter — the police and doctors see her as the fix for Finn.

Also, despite a particularly messy crime scene, the cops act as if they don't have a clue in the world beyond the images locked in Finn's head. Sure, it's rural England, but there must be forensics teams even in that remote locale.

It appears that the jeopardy will come from outside — from the murderers that may return for Finn — but it develops the idea that the danger is in the house. Finn appears to get well, but becomes much too attached to the nurturing environment of the "safe house," and to Graham. We're not talking in a motherly way, either.

Finally, Graham tells Finn she can't live in the little house on the marsh and things take an ugly turn.

Finn bolts the house but calls to threaten suicide. Graham tracks her down, only to find she's succeeded in her threat. Or has she? Mysterious happenings at the house make Graham doubt the veracity of the inquest's findings, and leave the cops and the villagers doubting her competence and sanity.

There are lots of twists — and a randy seduction — but they're done at a snail's pace. The resolution doesn't fit very smoothly, either. It's more like a puzzle with pieces that have been jammed together, and the film quickly glosses over some of the more illogical details.

The Safe House
debuts on BBC America Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT.

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