Jack Hobson reviews In Safe Hands, showing in our cinema until Thursday 18 July.
This French adoption drama, directed by Jeanne Henry, is an emotional masterpiece. The almost two hour film documents the important first months of a baby’s life. Given up for adoption on the day he was born, Théo transitions between arms of individuals as a permanent home is searched for.
As a hyperlink cinema piece, the film skillfully tells a triptych of parallel narratives which are ultimately wefted together into one, connected only by a baby. The three standpoints of birth mother, foster father and adoption mother present characters of disparate backgrounds connected with an intimate thread.
Flashbacks extend the core narrative from months into years, highlighting the difficulties of adoption as real life hinders the process. The struggles required to endure throughout the adoption process are highlighted in this; this is perhaps exaggerated by the length of the film itself as the audience are continually wondering about the fate of Théo throughout.
Although no flash forwards are portrayed, we are given a strong sense that the events of the film are crucial in shaping Théo’s future. In this the troubles of the characters’ pasts are provided a counterbalance in the form of hope in new beginnings for the future.
Detailed scenes of fostering and adoption allow the film to feel somewhat like a documentary – revealing insight to an entire system that many in the audience would not be at all familiar with and indeed delving into a subject rarely touched on in cinema. Although this threatens the film to become cold and disconnected, Jeanne Henry still gives immense power to human interaction and character. Scenes between Théo and parental figures are especially delicate and heartwarming, they are although simultaneously heavy as each touch casts waves throughout the narrative.
In this work Jeanne Henry has tenderly humanized what otherwise could have been a heavy and tricky subject.