About the film
Safe Haven is a 2013 romantic comedy film that is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The film was released on 1st March, is rated 12A and has a run time of 115 minutes.
On the run, mysterious Katie ends up in Southport, North Carolina after her bus takes a small stop there. Deciding to stay instead of carrying on with her journey, Katie distances herself from everyone and everything in town by living in a house in the middle of nowhere. She doesn’t want to form any personal relationships in order to save her secret but neighbour Jo won’t stay away and neither will Alex, a widow with two young children. Knowing that she can’t stay completely alone forever, she befriends a couple of people but barely lets them in. However, Katie’s past is catching up with her and quickly and she realises that taking a chance on someone new may just be worth the risk.
What I thought
As cheesy as Nicholas Sparks’ stories are, I can’t help but like them especially in film version. A Walk to Remember is one of my all-time favourite films and because of that, I will generally give anything Sparks related a go.
In Safe Haven, protagonist Katie is seen early on fleeing a house with blood on her hands. We don’t know why or exactly what happens but then we see her with short blonde hair instead of the long, brown hair she had before and boarding a bus out of town. Playing Katie is Julianne Hough who is now making a name for herself in romantic comedy films. Previously, Hough has been a professional dancer (sister of Derek Hough) and was a pro on Dancing with the Stars as well as having a record deal. Although not having a long list of previous films, Hough has been in the remake of Footloose, Burlesque and Rock of Ages – all films making the most of her ability to sing and dance. However, in Safe Haven Hough has to rely solely on her acting ability. While she does a pretty decent job, she is far from amazing. There are scenes which need her to act scared and scream but she comes across as a bit whiney and there isn’t much feeling behind her performance in these parts. On the other hand, she still manages to make her character Katie likeable, even though we don’t know exactly what happened to her.
Playing opposite Hough is Josh Duhamel as love interest Alex who is a widower with two young children. It is clear that Alex is instantly interested in Katie even though he is still not used to the fact that his wife is gone. He wants to look after his children and get on with life and is definitely not looking to fall in love but he can’t seem to help himself when it comes to Katie. Duhamel is a pretty standard actor in this genre but I definitely preferred his performance compared to Hough’s. He makes it possible to feel for his character, to understand what he’s going through and the character is also a really nice guy. It would be really hard to not like Alex and to hope things go well for him.
As far as romantic comedies go, this one is pretty standard, especially for one adapted from a Sparks novel. The plot is extremely clichéd but I kind of love that about these kinds of films. I generally know what I’m going to get when I watch a romantic comedy and I like that because it means I will always enjoy the film… or at least not hate it. While the plot was okay, it really could have been better. As there is more to this one than just the romance, I would have liked to have known about Katie and her past. We only get glimpses of what happened to make her run away for the most part of the film and it is only near the end that we really get to know what really happened. I wanted to know more about this part of the film.
There is a twist at the end which I wasn’t expecting but I really don’t think the film needed it. If the film had ended after the big drama scene, I would have been extremely happy with the outcome but instead, some weird stuff happens. I do think this ending was very typical for a Sparks story but I also think it slightly ruined the ending for me. At the same time, it did tie in really well with other things that happen throughout the film and I can see a lot of people liking the ending due to how emotional it is.
While I didn’t love this film, I wasn’t expecting to. I wanted an easy film to watch one night and this was definitely that. Don’t watch this one thinking it will be great and you might just enjoy it more than you think.