Safe Haven (2013)

01 March 2013

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Safe Haven. 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.

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“The relationship this entire film is built around is devoid of any natural spark...”

American author Nicholas Sparks has a habit of writing novels that are easily accessible to a mainstream Hollywood audience, as his books, such as The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and most recently The Lucky One, have all been adapted into relatively successful productions. Now it's time for yet another of his stories to be brought to the big screen, as Lasse Hallström - who also directed Dear John, another one of Sparks' novels - this time takes on Safe Haven, which also happens to be the first film Sparks himself has got involved in, taking on a role as executive producer.

Following a dramatic incident with a former lover, Katie (Julianne Hough) decides to escape her past and flee to the seaside city of Southport, North Carolina, to settle down and stay out of the way of the vigilant policeman Kevin (David Lyons), who is desperate to track down his target. However, despite anticipating a quiet, concealed lifestyle, Katie finds herself drawn to local widower Alex (Josh Duhamel), yet their pending romance forces Katie to confront her mysterious past.

Continuing on in a familiar trend to Sparks' previous adaptations, Safe Haven has a similarly mawkish tone, and although not quite as nauseating as we have seen before, it's certainly up there. The issue is, sentimentality in cinema can work if you believe in and therefore root for the romance at hand, yet the relationship this entire film is built around is devoid of any natural spark, with a distinct lack of chemistry evident between both Hough and Duhamel. By feeling nothing and caring so little for their supposedly passionate love, it does nothing but devalue absolutely everything else within this title.

The one thing Safe Haven does do well, however, is the structure of the story, and the way the audience are kept guessing throughout, as we slowly learn more about Katie's past as the film progresses towards the final act. There is a nice balance to the feature also, as it begins pensively, before we slowly build towards what is a dramatic conclusion. Problem is, by the time we've got there we've already given up caring about what happens.

Apart from the impressive cinematography, using the picturesque setting to its advantage, unfortunately Safe Haven is too forgettable on the whole, presenting a somewhat generic romantic story, and one not particularly well told nor performed. After this latest offering, it's about time we ended this at the source. In other words, someone needs to have a quiet word with Sparks and persuade him to stop writing novels. I don't think I can take this anymore.

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