Review by Sean Boelman
No Safe Spaces, directed by Justin Folk, is a politically-charged new documentary about an issue that seems to be gaining more and more attention in the media today. Featuring two charismatic leads to communicate its message, one may not agree with this film’s politics, but it is a surprisingly well-argued documentary.
This documentary explores the idea of free speech and how this fundamental right is being threatened, particularly on college campuses across the nation. Admittedly, this is a very divisive topic and audiences are unlikely to be swayed by the information they see on screen. Although this documentary is very much one-sided, it thankfully manages to never feel like it is propagandizing.
Although the politics of the subjects serve as the core of the movie, this documentary does have quite a bit of merit beyond simply reinforcing the ideas held by conservative viewers. Regardless of one’s perspective on the issue, this is a conversation that needs to be had and this film can serve as an effective conversation starter.
The movie, clocking in at just over an hour and a half, is surprisingly entertaining for a political documentary. Films like this have a tendency to feel like they are preaching (often to the choir that will be seeing it), but No Safe Spaces is an exception that feels like it is trying to present information to the audience. Even though it doesn’t succeed in being as reasoned as it hopes to be, it is still much more well-argued than a majority of other uber-conservative documentaries like this.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this documentary is the variety it brings to the methods of presenting its information. At times, this does begin to feel a bit overwhelming and hectic, but for the most part, it helps the movie feel much more entertaining. Although the discussions that occur between Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla are interesting, they are obviously staged and aren’t the most effective tools used by the film.
The best sequences of this movie are those that are intentionally edgy in a way that makes them absolutely fascinating to watch. One sequence that immediately stands out is an animated musical sequence made to parody Schoolhouse Rock, albeit with an extreme twist. This scene is so unexpected and hilarious that one can’t help but admire the ingenuity that went into making it.
That said, one of the film’s biggest weaknesses is the fact that it doesn’t feel entirely in touch with the issue at hand. Although having Prager and Carolla as the faces of the documentary will go a long way in making it appeal to older conservative audiences because they are easily recognizable, the movie likely would have been more effective had it been presented from the perspective of the people who are actually affected by this issue: college students.
No Safe Spaces is undeniably going to be a very divisive film because of its political nature, but it serves as an interesting examination of an issue that has gotten quite a bit of media attention as of late. Much more creative than most similar films, this documentary manages to deliver its message in a palatable and entertaining way.
No Safe Spaces is now playing in theaters.