Writing about one’s own experiences can be therapeutic, potentially a cathartic endeavor that’s part of the healing process.  For Croatian writer, director, and actor Juraj Lerotić, he found the process of making his film “Safe Place” to be the opposite… a “re-traumatization,” in the director’s words.

Lerotić, whose fingerprints are on every frame of “Safe Place,” started writing the story with the aim to direct it and cast actors. However, Lerotić ultimately felt that he was the only person to play his role in this story, which is based on the trauma that he experienced when he lost his brother to suicide.

With the help of producer Miljenka Čogelja, Lerotić crafted a powerful film that examines the pain of suicide through its strain on family members and their inability to navigate a condition that is so poorly understood.  The film also highlights the severely limited resources available to citizens fighting mental health crises with cringeworthy doctor conversations (the doctor barely cares enough to be reachable). 

Lerotić’s character, with the help of his mother, tries to help his brother (played brilliantly by Goran Marković) through a mental crisis that evolved rather quickly over a short period of time.

When his brother runs from the hospital, Lerotić’s character gives them a picture of his brother at the beach… it was the most recent picture of him and, conversely the last time he was really himself that Lerotić could remember. 

Actor Goran Marković in Croatia’s ‘Safe Place’

Throughout the film, Lerotić delivers an incredible performance that complements Marković’s masterful, emotional work. However, it’s Lerotić’s vision as a director that elevates the film to a stunning piece of art.  

Lerotić, not wanting to mask the reality of experience, chose to exclude score from the film… relying on the ambient noise and emotional conversations.

The film closes with the footage of the lost brother on the beach, the last time he was truly himself… closing with a powerful overlap for the unknowingly man as he is mere months from taking his own life in a spiral of tragic melancholy. 

It’s one of the year’s most powerful films and a great surprise for those looking for something of “Meat and merit” this awards season. 

Letter Grade: A-

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a voting member of the Television Academy, Critics Choice Association, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (the SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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