Running Time: 115 minutes
Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, Red West, David Lyons
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
A woman trying to escape her past seeks refuge in a small town.
Sorry peeps, this is another Nicholas Sparks movie review within a two week period. I am this close to taking up knitting and going for long walks on the beach. In fact, after this review is done I am going to watch the end of Rambo 4 to balance me out. Safe Haven is the story of Katie. She is on the run from her past and ends up in the small town of South Port, North Carolina. She bonds with a widower there and is forced to face her dark secret.
The film starts and we see Katie fleeing from some unknown terror. She is distraught as she flees from the only life that she knows. It is a good start as clearly something bad has happened to her, but the viewer is left wondering as to what that exactly is. So, Katie’s “just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. Took the midnight train going anywhere” – Journey. She finally chooses to stay in the small town of South Port, North Carolina. This is the sort of place that is barely on the map, and that suits Katie just fine. She adjusts to her new life and tries to forget everything that has happened to her before. The film is easy to get into as South Port is a beautiful little town. With a great accompanying score (albeit sometimes cheesy) this film eases the viewer into a tale of love where you would least expect it. The quaint little stores, the easy way of life, and the beautiful nature shots, all prepare you for a romantic tale of sizeable magnitude. Katie struggles to trust people and is plagued with bad dreams. The viewer gets insights as to what has happened to her, and that South Port may not be hidden enough for her to escape her demons. What I liked the most about the first half of this film is that the lameness is kept to a minimum. The long lingering looks, the tacky dialogue, and the places of impossible beauty are used in only minimal doses (Which is a positive, especially for dudes forced into watching this on date night!)
These types of films won’t work unless you buy into the romantic leads. In this case we are following Katie who is played by Julianne Hough, and the widower Alex, who is played by Josh Duhamel. Hough is cute, she is easy to follow, and does a very commendable job in this. I found I was pulling for her more because she is so new to the acting game, and so her look is fresh to me. Hough is also another factor for a date night compromise as she is stunning. I was worried about Duhamel to start this film as he comes off as the quintessential dork, but as the film progresses, he will grow on you. He settles into the strong male character that is synonymous with Sparks writing. He ends up playing the perfect man quite well. Hough and Duhamel are good looking leads, and they develop a chemistry that is perfect for this type of film. Their height difference is noticeably distracting but if that is the only negative, then they have done their jobs. What do I hate the most in film? That’s right, child actors. Alex’s kids are played by Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland. They bothered me for most of their screen time and really drag the film down in places. Overall, the acting was what you would expect in a film like this and that is a good thing.
As the film carries on it is clear that Katie loves South Port. She makes fast friends and finds steady work. She finds a cozy cottage type house in the woods to live in and she finds Alex to be a man she can be at ease with. But she constantly is looking over her shoulder and is uneasy in crowds. The film is almost relaxing as Katie and Alex get to know each other better. Looking at the two of them going through the first stages of dating is cute and fun. Love is seldom easy and rarely perfect, and this film does a good job of relating that to the viewer. You can run from your troubles but you cannot hide from them forever. Katie’s old life will eventually threaten her new one in ways she cannot possible fathom. In conclusion, this film will give you a lot of smiles and even a few tears. Finding a way to love in a negative world is always a good storyline. This is classic Sparks and a solid romantic story. The intrigue of Katie’s unknown past and the ending are particularly strong. The negatives are that this film is not entirely original in terms of story. The characters, setting, and music all have a rehashed vibe to it. (See the Lucky One, The Notebook). The kids will also get on most people’s nerves.
Director Lasse Hallstrom nailed this film. That is no surprise with such films as Cider House Rules, and Chocolat on his resume. Picking Hough as Katie is really his shining moment as she was the perfect lead in this. The film does have slow parts but I felt that I was always wondering about Katie’s past which kept me interested. Beautiful location and complimentary music only sealed the deal for me. Well done again Mr. Hallstrom.
I give this movie a recommendation and now it is time for me to throw on some Death Metal and play some Left 4 Dead 2 to try and reclaim some of my masculinity!
T Factor + If you like romantic movies then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you have seen many Nicholas Sparks movies then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: The Lucky One, The Vow.