Ever since the success of The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks’ books have been getting adapted to the silver screen left and right. The latest of his works to get this treatment is Safe Haven, a romance film with a hint of mystery attached to it.
Safe Haven is about a young woman named Katie, (Julianne Hough) who is running down the street covered in blood with a plastic bag in her hand when we’re first introduced to her. In the scenes that follow this introduction, we see a now short blonde Katie purchasing a bus ticket and rushing to catch said bus just as a handful of police officers, led by Detective Tierney (David Lyons), shows up looking for her with a now outdated picture of her with long brown hair. Katie escapes and the movie begins with her leaving that life – and whatever problems with the law that accompanied it – behind her.
Katie’s bus is headed to Atlanta, which leads to the main hub where she can then take a bus anywhere in the country and slip away. However, when the bus makes a pit stop in Southport, North Carolina, Katie instantly falls in love with the small town and it’s secluded feeling. Early on she meets a store manager named Alex (Josh Duhamel), and while the two hit it off, Katie’s not eager to start any sort of relationship up and would rather be left alone.
Unfortunately, her neighbour, Jo (Cobie Smulders), is rather nosey and all but forces friendship upon Katie by constantly popping up unannounced. Jo tells Katie to give Alex a chance, and that’s what she does and the Nicholas Spark romance bug inevitably bites the two of them and sparks begin to fly. Meanwhile, Det. Tierney is determined to hunt down Katie for her crimes, hoping that the more he digs, the sooner he’ll bring her to justice.
The chemistry between Hough and Duhamel is okay, though their relationship doesn’t have the initial sparks one expects from a film like this. They feel like they’re two characters who are meant to have a romance because it’s written that way, not because it comes naturally and grows from there.
In fact, it’s the beautiful town of Southport that may sell the romance more than anything. This small gem of a location is hard not to fall in love with. When Kate arrived and looked out from the docks at the water, and had the breeze flowing through her hair, I found myself longing to go and escape to this place of serene beauty. It’s just that magical of a place – at least onscreen – that makes you think anything can happen, and it’s definitely a reason why the romance works on any level. Take these two and plop them down in the middle of New York, with Alex working at a Starbucks and it just loses a lot of appeal.
While I know I’m not exactly the target audience for a film like this, I am a big fan of romance films and romantic comedies in general, so I’m not just being a naysayer for the sake of it. I have no doubt that there are plenty of people who will enjoy this film and the romantic getaway it has to offer, I’m just saying that as far as romances go, this one is simply average, and the story itself is so predictable at times that you may find yourself screaming at your TV as though it was a horror film, “What? Don’t do that! Why’d you do that!”
This is especially true when Katie decides to call the neighbour who helped her get out of town earlier in the film so that she can let her know she’s found a safe place to stay. Of course, even though the neighbour is retired and always seems to be home, she doesn’t answer the phone and also doesn’t seem to delete messages after hearing them. Again, just like the romance between Katie and Alex, a lot of things just don’t feel natural, and come off like they’re only happening because it’s the only way to move the story forward.
Duhamel does some strong work here, and fits nicely as the leading man. No doubt women will swoon at him being a widower with two young children to take care of. Hough definitely has potential moving forward in films that don’t simply focus on her main attributes of singing and dancing. Oddly enough it’s Lyons who really steals the show on the acting front. Fans of the TV show Revolution will recognize him immediately as that show’s main antagonist Monroe, and while he’s good there, the Australian actor really shows off his acting chops this time out.
Safe Haven is an average romance film with one to many twists in the story. One of them works quite well, and it makes so many other complaints I would’ve had with the story understandable. The second twist is incredibly weak, and just doesn’t work at all. Maybe it comes across better in the book; however, on screen it just comes across as bizarre and really the story would have worked just the same without it.
The video transfer is really well done, and it has this beauty to it that really gives off the romance vibe. There’s a softness to it without it actually being visually soft in terms of sharpness, and it works really well. The sound transfer is also well done, as the dialogue, sound mix and score all come through quite nicely.
Deleted and Extended Scenes – There are a handful of scenes here that don’t really add much or hit on any vital information.
Igniting the Romance in Safe Haven – This featurette is roughly 10 minutes in length and sees the cast, crew and author Nicholas Sparks (who also produced the film) talk about the film, the casting, the locations and such.
Josh Duhamel’s Lessons in Crabbing – This is a quick little featurette that sees Duhamel attempting to catch a crab using the net and gear required. It’s fun and short, so it’s worth checking out if you pick this up in any fashion.
Set Tour – This is another brief featurette that sees certain cast members talking about certain areas of the set. It’s not a full-on tour, but you get to see some nice scenery if you’re a fan of Southport.
Alternate Ending – This is more deceiving than anything, as it’s really just an alternate shot added into the ending. Nothing is changed, and nothing new happens. There’s simply an added shot that really makes the ending fade out on an awkward note. This should’ve just been thrown into the deleted scenes instead of making it its own featurette.
Safe Haven is an average romance movie that hits all the notes you’d expect it to hit in fairly predictable fashion. While there are bound to be people who enjoy the story, Safe Haven isn’t something I’d actively seek out when looking to be wined and dined by a film.
Relativity Media Presents Safe Haven. Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom. Written by: Dana Stevens and Gage Lansky. Based off the Novel by: Nicholas Sparks. Starring: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders. Running time: 115 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven, The Notebook