A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Director: Lasse Hallström Writers: Leslie Bohem, Nicholas Sparks, Stars: Julianne Hough, Irene Ziegler, Jon Kohler
An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman's struggle to love again, "Safe Haven" is based on the novel from Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author behind the hit films "The Notebook" and "Dear John." When a mysterious young woman arrives in a small North Carolina town, her reluctance to join the tight knit community raises questions about her past. Slowly, she begins putting down roots, and gains the courage to start a relationship with Alex, a widowed store owner with two young children. But dark secrets intrude on her new life with such terror that she is forced to rediscover the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this deeply moving romantic thriller.
Parents need to know that Safe Haven is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, whose work previously inspired syrupy romances like The Notebook, The Last Song, and The Lucky One. Safe Haven stars Julianne Hough as a mysterious stranger with a dark secret who lands in a small North Carolina town; Josh Duhamel plays the widowed young dad with whom she begins to build a new life -- until her past comes back to confront her. Fans of Sparks' other sentimental romances will probably gravitate to Safe Haven, but it could have some mature moments tha t will be more appropriate for teens.
PLOT: Katie (Julianne Hough) is a young woman on the run, who lands in a sleepy North Carolina town, and tries to start a new life. She quickly falls for Alex (Josh Duhamel) - a widowed father of two- but their bliss is threatened by Katie’s past.
REVIEW: SAFE HAVEN is a return to the Nicholas Sparks well for director Lasse Hallstrom, after making DEAR JOHN a few years ago. SAFE HAVEN is being hyped as a departure for Sparks, with this adding some thriller elements into the mix. Basically, this is a really tame version of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, mixed in with Sparks’ usual small-town, folksy idealized romance. Like in THE NOTEBOOK, DEAR JOHN, THE LUCKY ONE, etc- the characters are less like real people than idealized romantic stereotypes, with Duhamel’s widowed father being particularly saintly. Anyone wanna bet the doe-eyed Hough is going to fall for the single dad? Yeah- thought so…
Then again, you don’t exactly walk into a Sparks adaptation expecting BLUE VALENTINE, and for about half of SAFE HAVEN, its no worse than other big-screen adaptations of his work (heck- I even kinda liked THE NOTEBOOK). Hough and Duhamel are a pretty, but bland pair- although they do well enough with the simple, predictable material. Cobie Smulders, in the bland “best friend” part livens things up a bit, but even she can’t make something out of nothing- which is exactly what she gets to work with here. For his part, Hallstrom seems to be on autopilot, and it’s sad to think that this movie- which is really no better directed than your run-of-the-mill Lifetime TV-movie, comes from the director of WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, MY LIFE AS A DOG, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, THE HOAX, and other- far better films. Still, it’s not awful.
That is- it’s not awful until the second hour, when the thriller aspect of the film starts to take over. Just in case anyone reading this has a hankering to go so it, or is dragged by their significant other, I’ll try not to give too much away. But- the so-called “thriller” part of the film is really bad, with the sweaty, crazy-eyed cop pursuing Hough (David Lyons) obviously being up to no good. It all climaxes in a big 4th of July fireworks display/fire that doesn’t offer the slightest amount of tension, and in fact- is eye-rollingly bad in its clichés.