Open main menu

Safety Not Guaranteed is a 2012 American science-fiction romantic comedy film[3][4][5] directed by Colin Trevorrow. It was screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.[6]

Safety Not Guaranteed
Film poster
Directed byColin Trevorrow
Produced by
Written byDerek Connolly
Music byRyan Miller
CinematographyBenjamin Kasulke
Edited by
  • Franklin Peterson
  • Joe Landauer
Distributed byFilmDistrict
Release date
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.4 million[2]



Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is a disillusioned college graduate who lives at home with her widower father (Jeff Garlin) and interns at Seattle Magazine. One of the magazine's writers, Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson), proposes to investigate a newspaper classified ad that reads:[7]

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Jeff's boss Bridget (Mary Lynn Rajskub) approves of his story idea and Jeff selects his team: Darius and a man named Arnau (Karan Soni), a studious biology major interning at the magazine to diversify his résumé. They travel to the seaside community of Ocean View to find and profile the person behind the ad. Jeff later reveals an ulterior motive for this assignment: to track down a long-lost love interest who lives in town.

Darius discovers that the person behind the ad is Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), a stock clerk at a local grocery store. Jeff's attempt to approach Kenneth alienates him, so Jeff orders Darius to make contact. Darius's disaffected attitude serves her well, and she quickly endears herself to Kenneth as she poses as a candidate to accompany him on his mission. While Kenneth is paranoid and believes that secret agents are tracking his every move, Darius gains his trust as she participates in a series of training exercises in the woods around his house and begins to develop feelings for him. She tells Kenneth about losing her mother when she was young and that her mission is to prevent it. Kenneth says his mission is to go back to 2001 and prevent the death of his old girlfriend Belinda, who was killed when someone drove a car into her house.

Meanwhile, Jeff tracks down Liz (Jenica Bergere), a fling from his teenage years; although she is not as attractive as he recalls her being, they reconnect and sleep together. He asks her to come back with him to Seattle, but she believes this is just another fling for him, so she refuses. Upset by her rejection, Jeff takes Arnau out on the town and they pick up some young women. Jeff tells Arnau to not waste his youth and convinces him to spend the night with one of the women.

The next morning, Jeff receives a phone call from Bridget, who has been following up the team's notes on the story; she informs him that Belinda (Kristen Bell) is still alive. During an interview, Darius learns Belinda was only friends with Kenneth and that Kenneth had driven into her then-boyfriend's house, but no one was injured. After the interview, Darius is questioned by two government agents who have been following Kenneth and believe that he may be a spy because of his communication with government scientists.

Darius returns to Kenneth's house to confront him, but Kenneth rationalizes Belinda is now alive because his time travel mission succeeded. Jeff runs in to warn them that the government agents are also on the property. Kenneth panics and runs into the woods. Darius follows Kenneth, who has boarded his time machine, which has been integrated into a small boat on the lake. Darius apologizes for lying to Kenneth, tells him everything else they shared was real, and joins him on the boat. Kenneth tells Darius that the mission is now only to go back for her. As Jeff, Arnau, and the agents watch, Kenneth and Darius activate the time machine and vanish. Kenneth and Darius are shown as they happily run through the woods. A filmed interview, presumably from earlier, shows Kenneth explaining why he chose to enlist a partner for his time travels.



The film was shot in Seattle and Ocean Shores, Washington, and other locations within 30 miles of Seattle. It is also partially set in Seattle.[8] The film was shot with a Sony F3 camera using old Panavision lenses, which gave the film a desired "Hal Ashby look" for director Colin Trevorrow.[9] Production budget was reported by The Film Collaborative to be $750,000.[1] Duplass and his brother Jay received executive producer credit.

Critical receptionEdit

Safety Not Guaranteed has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 142 critics; the average rating is 7.4/10. The site's critical consensus states: "Safety Not Guaranteed's ostensibly modest ambitions are outmatched by the movie's strong performances, beguiling charm, and heartfelt story."[3]Metacritic gives film a score of 72/100 based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that the story's shenanigans are "harnessed to a plaintive underlying theme about the fading dreams of those aspiring professionals in their 20s and 30s."[4] Roger Ebert praised the film for the quality of the dialogue, characters with depth and dimension, as well as Mark Duplass for his balanced performance.[11]

Safety Not Guaranteed has been called "one of the most influential films of the last decade" in terms of its effect on the film making industry. Made in 2012 with a first-time director and writer and costing less than a million dollars, this character-driven indie caught the eye of Netflix, foreshadowing the role of streaming in film creation and distribution and of such directors being tapped to direct big-budget films due to their experience with well-regarded small-budget films.[12]


List of awards and nominations for Safety Not Guaranteed
Award Category Nominees Result
ALMA Awards Favorite Movie Actress Comedy/Musical Aubrey Plaza Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Most Promising Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Ensemble Performance Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, Mary Lynn Rajskub Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Colin Trevorrow Nominated
Best First Screenplay Derek Connolly Won
Leiden International Film Festival Iron Herring: Best Feature Film Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly Won[13]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Actress Aubrey Plaza Nominated
Best Arthouse or Festival Film Won
(tied with Compliance)
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Colin Trevorrow Nominated
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award Derek Connolly Won
Young Hollywood Awards Breakthrough Performance Award Aubrey Plaza Won


  1. ^ a b Glick, Brian. "How did the Sundance 2012 narrative films fare?". News item. The Film Collaborative. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Safety Not Guaranteed". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  3. ^ a b "Safety Not Guaranteed". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (June 7, 2012), "Looking for Themselves in Fading Dreams From the Past and Present, Safety Not Guaranteed, a Comedy With a Time Machine", The New York Times, retrieved 2012-10-24
  5. ^ Massey, Haley (25 April 2013). "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED - An Awesome Time Travel Sci-Fi Romance". The Galaxy Express. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  6. ^ "2012 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards". January 28, 2012. Archived from the original on April 28, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  7. ^ Lowe, Rachel. "Movie Trailer: "Safety Not Guaranteed"". EntertainmentTell. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  8. ^ Macdonald, Moira (June 5, 2012). "'Safety Not Guaranteed' filmmaker finds inspiration in a classified ad—and in the Northwest". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
  9. ^ "Production Notes". SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (official website). Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  10. ^ "Safety Not Guaranteed Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (2012-06-13). "Safety Not Guaranteed". Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  12. ^ Lincoln, Kevin. "The Micro-Budget Indie That Foreshadowed the Next 5 Years of Film". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  13. ^ "Safety not Guaranteed wint in Leiden".

External linksEdit