Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
Director: Lasse Hallström
Safe Haven follows Katie (Julianne Hough), a young woman who escapes her dark past and a bloodied body - to restart her life in the small town of Southport.
After changing her appearance and getting a job at a diner, she falls for good-looking owner Alex (Josh Duhamel), a recently widowed man with two small children.
With a straight talking new friend Jo (Cobie Smulders), Katie slowly starts to let Alex into her life, but can she run from her dark secrets forever?
At best, Safe Haven is a clichéd melodrama that offers a postcard good-looking romance of two people who both find they need each other but both have dark and troubling pasts to contend with.
Josh Duhamel contributes as the love interest, spending most of the film being somewhat wooden and rigid. The plot is fickle, predictable and clichéd to the point of embarrassment at times (how many more times will protagonists lustfully embrace in rain?)
The film left me with the impression that once you have seen one Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations, you’ve basically seen them all. Most of his themes are firmly there such as love and loss and two dimensional characters that are all good looking and brooding.
There are the usual picture-perfect, beautiful shots that make the story memorable and a few laugh-out-loud moments that all contribute to Sparks canon of work.
Although, the intuitive viewer is left with lots of ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys’ with concerns to confusing plot points, long scenes of nothing happening and a plot twist so predictable by the end you feel like saying ‘I thought so’ out loud.
The film does have to be given credit for its use of suspense throughout the film, Katie’s secrets are always on the verge of spilling out into her new life and when detective Tierney (David Lyons) is hot on her heels, the audience does stay gripped to the screen.
But for, it would seem, all the wrong reasons, Safe Haven is at best, a disappointing reworking of the Sparks romance drama template.
The narrative plot points are what make this film a weak, romance-mystery genre hybrid. It becomes a vehicle for stereotypes, shallow ideologies of romance (two good looking people, a sugar coated view of love and romance in America) and predictability.
Mainly for three reasons, first of all we find out that the detective is actually Katie’s husband who she stabbed in self-defence.
This contradicts the scene at the beginning of the film when we see her being chased by Tierney who obviously isn’t wounded.
Secondly, being Katie’s husband who lived across the street from Mrs Feldman -where she hid from him before she left the state-just seems far-fetched; wouldn’t he have checked with the neighbours where his wife was or seen her coming and going as the house is opposite?
Third of all we discover in the end of the film that her new friend Jo is actually the ghost of Alex’s dead wife, bizarrely throwing the narrative into some Sixth Sense kind of territory.
Regardless of its mediocre allure and obvious flaws, Safe Haven will no doubt be a hit among young girls and die-hard fans of Sparks and the genre.
However, this is one fellow romantic that wasn’t quite seduced into this shallow tale. It is what it says on the tin and for that reason alone, if you enjoy the likes of Dear John and The Last Song then you will get exactly no less than you would expect from a Sparks adventure.
But for those looking for something deeper and perhaps more thought provoking, this might not be the drama for you to fall in love with.