A supremely convincing slice of life leavened by the dark humor of resignation, “Safe” is an almost unrelentingly bleak and violent portrait of homeless youths in London. Intense pic will be a deeply unpleasant experience for many, but is a good shake-’em-up tool for TV auds and an urgent item both for fests and civic leaders. After copping two awards at the Edinburgh fest and the Prix du Jury (Silver Hitchcock) at the Dinard British Cinema fest, item aired Oct. 13 in BBC2’s “Screenplay” slot.
Kaz (Kate Hardie) and Gypo (Aidan Gillen) are intelligent but homeless twentysomethings adrift in London’s West End. Rather than settle for spare change, they pose as pimp and prostie, fleecing men for hunks of cash.
One risky scam leads to brutal consequences. The toll that street people take on those who try to help them is well conveyed in scenes at a youth shelter, where the long-suffering staff have their patience exhausted nightly by the unruly behavior of misfits, wastrels and psychic burnouts.
Full-throttle thesping gives the compact tragedy an impact that outlasts the brief running time. Robert Carlyle, unrecognizable from his role as the soft-spoken lead in Ken Loach’s “Riff-Raff,” is first-class as a street-dwelling gent who could be a cousin to Gary Oldman’s evil pimp in “True Romance,” terrorizing his mates and plunging broken bottles into his chest to earn a hospital stay.
Lensing captures the ultra-gritty bustle of city streets and the forlorn chill of makeshift digs on the sidewalk. A defiant episode in which Gillen frolics full-frontally in the shelter could pose problems in some markets.