Safe Haven (2013) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

The annual Nicholas Sparks film adaption has finally produced a product that compares favorably to the 2004 hit The Notebook. This is a small story with just the right amount of plot turns to keep (male) viewers attention. When an enigmatic and beautiful young woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) appears in the small town community of Southport, N.C., her arrival raises questions about her past. A past that is full of dark secrets and foul-play. Determined not to make ties with anyone for fear of being captured by the law, Katie becomes reluctantly involved with two relationships: There is Alex, a widowed father of two young children; and another with her only neighbor a woman named, Jo.

Meanwhile a passionately focused cop is attempting to track down Katie and bring her to justice for her crimes. Meanwhile Katie slowly begins to fall in love with Alex, while becoming increasingly attached to the community. Even so her dark secret still haunts her and a decision must be made to leave the safe haven of Southport or risk being brought to justice by law enforcement personnel.

I assumed that Safe Haven would be typical Valentine’s Day cinematic fodder, a cardboard version of life full of obnoxious caricatures and trite clichés. So it was with some surprise that I realized how engrossed I’d become with the story. There is just something about Julianne Hough, she has the soft features of Meg Ryan and the smoky voice of Milla Kunis. Hough’s warmth leaps off the screen and you feel like hugging her when she explodes into tears during an emotional confession. Josh Duhamel is serviceable, he has an easy-going screen presence that suggests he could make a long career of love interest in movies like this.

The marketing on Safe Haven has gone to great lengths to keep some of the juicer plot points under-wraps, rare in this age of instant gratification. In doing so, audiences will be enthralled with a love story that resonates and a crime movie that satisfies. Safe Haven is the uncommon chick-flick that actually hooks viewers early and keeps us in its dream state to the end.

Director: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders

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