Safe Haven: Rated “PG-13” (115 Minutes)
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, David Lyons, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Ah, yet another life-affirming (yet suspenseful) story by the ever-popular “relationshipy” Nicholas Sparks (Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe) This one is about a young woman’s life who is attempting to escape a troubling past and begin again new in a more peaceful (safer) haven. Katie (Hough) has a dark past. When we first see here she is frantically fleeing from her beautiful suburban home in Boston with a small bag of clothes, and her hands covered in blood. She seeks help from an elderly neighbor who aids in her transformation (haircut, dye-job) and escape.
A bus ride later she winds up in a small coastal town in North Carolina where she gets a job waitressing, finds a cabin in the woods to live and starts becoming entwined in the life of Alex (Duhamel) a widower with two young children. At first her reluctance to join the tight-knit community raises questions about her past, but slowly, tentatively she starts to put down some roots, and begins to gain the courage to start a relationship with Alex. Still, her dark secret begins to intrude on her new life, filling her with such terror that she is forced to relearn the meaning of sacrifice and rely on the power of love in this interesting and engaging romantic thriller.
Increasing our anxiety is that all the time that Katie is building her new life, we not only keep cutting back to the event that propelled her on her journey, but to a relentlessly tenacious Boston cop who is intent on tracking her down. This inter-cutting action raises the tension and suspense throughout the film, but — given as this is a Nick Sparks story — we know that nothing really bad will happen to the leads and the bad guy will get his comeuppance (in a little too pat and totally expected ending, unfortunately). Still (as stated) the film is well made, reasonably well told, and the leads are reasonably easy on the eyes (Duhamel for the gals, Hough for their dates). Plus, what truly raises the bar on this flick — elevating it above standard “chick-flick” fare is the truly unique story elements surrounding Alex’s dead wife (she passed away from cancer and left behind a series of letters for not only the kids later on in life, but Alex and the woman with whom he winds up with after she is gone). Very unique, and not so obvious storytelling that works quite well. So if you are looking for a date-night film, then pick this one, you won’t go wrong.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.