Young teen Jessica and her kid brother Charlie are setting out on a journey. They leave behind a dark, unsettling home life and set out into the larger world with few belongings.
The countryside they travel through is idyllic, stretching out around them in a pastoral, seemingly peaceful expanse. Together, they make a stop at a place they once enjoyed in simpler, happier times. But all is not what it seems, both in the world and between the siblings, as they embark on a trip that will change their lives forever.
Written and directed by David Yorke, this short drama appears at first to be a tender portrait of a relationship between a sister and her young brother, imbued with the golden light and beauty of the countryside. Taking a maternal role with Charlie and likely for the entire family, Jessica shepherds her brother as they prepare to leave. At first, it seems like a lighthearted excursion, captured in lyrical camerawork and cinematography. But the silent, ominous figure of their mother lying in the living room is a prominent hint that their pair are fleeing a troubling situation.
The storytelling toggles between the tender-hearted sweetness of the siblings in the past as they play in the countryside and their murkier present. Their golden memories are carefree and visually bright; their present is dustier and darker in tone. Small details in the dialogue and sound -- from sirens and crying in the background to promises to protect Charlie from pain -- build up a mystery of a troubled milieu that Jessica and Charlie are fleeing. The film often exists in a lyrical register, but embedded in its style are hints of a more troubling story, tucked away in the background for perceptive viewers to discover.
Young actor Jodie Price offers a subtle, nuanced performance as Jessica, capturing both the joy of being a sister to Charlie and a weight that only gets heavier as the story goes on. She evokes a burden of troubled emotion, one she carefully hides from her brother. Through it all, Charlie -- played by young performer Charlie Price with charming guilelessness -- trusts Jessica above anything else, which makes the end of their journey together all the more heartbreaking.
The end of "Safekeeping," taken on its own, could feel shocking. But as the wider world of the film is revealed and Jessica's actions are given context, the narrative gives rise to questions of love, duty and morality. It also makes for fascinating viewing, especially given recent worldwide events when so many people had to make hard decisions about their loved ones or watch helplessly as they suffered. Through it all, love endures -- but the shape it takes can depend on the world around us, full of forces often beyond our control.