Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders and David Lyons
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Written by Dana Stevens, Gage Lansky (Screenplay) and Nicholas Sparks (Novel)
Safe Haven tells the story of a mysterious woman who turns up in a small town. Nobody knows who she is or where she came from as she sets about creating secluded life without significant human contact. Our leading character, Katie (Hough), is soon drawn to the appeal of ‘small town life’, including a handsome widower (Duhamel) and finds herself starting to build a life. From the first moments of the film it is clear that there is something in Katie’s past that she is running from which, of course, comes to light just as her happiness starts to fall into place. The plot is relatively interesting for a film of this standard; it’s enjoyable but not earth moving. It lacks challenge or lesson but serves the purpose of entertainment should you enjoy a romantic story.
Nicholas Sparks, known for his romance novels, has had several of his stories translated to film. The mass following of the romance novelist presents an expectation of grand gesture, love surpassing all else and films that are easy to watch but perhaps, somewhat repetitive. Having grown up watching and enjoying several of these films it didn’t surprise me that I enjoyed Safe Haven; though the basis of the film has many similarities to other Sparks movies. Though I could happily find myself watching and re-watching films based upon the novels of Nicholas Sparks I cant help but notice that they are lazily formulaic. They follow a very precise structure which makes them easy to recognise, but it is a formula that sells to the romanticised audiences rather than creates an authentic connection between character and audience.
Safe Haven carries a reminiscent feel to that of ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’, a film which expertly tells its story. It doesn’t quite achieve the same level of tension or authenticity, however it is perhaps a bridge between a younger audience starting to experience storylines of this nature to that of a slightly darker representation. It is difficult to mention a key moment of this film which pulls it from entertaining and mildly interesting through to a bit ridiculous; without a significant spoiler. The ending throws a completely unnecessary curveball which, for me, detracts from the films strengths.
I wouldn’t recommend this film as an essential watch, as previously stated it doesn’t carry any importance or particularly mind blowing filmmaking. It is however a pleasant enough film with a very particular target audience – if you have enjoyed other Nicholas Sparks film adaptations then theres a good chance that this will satisfy for an entertaining evening.