Safe Haven

WRITTEN BY: Leslie Bohem, Dana Stevens
DIRECTED BY: Lasse Hallstrom
STARRING: Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons, Mimi Kirkland
RATING: 3 stars

If you did not enjoy previous film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' novels such as The Notebook, A Walk To Remember and Dear John, then Safe Haven will not convert you. This film is definitely just for fans of the author's work. Although it is different to some of his previous novels, in that it has more thrilling moments mixed in with the romance, the film is still essentially a rather typical Nicholas Sparks story.

Katie (Julianne Hough) is on the run for some mysterious reason and finally settles in Southport, North Carolina. There, she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower father of two young children, Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland), who run a general store. She also befriends her only neighbour, Jo (Cobie Smulders), and Katie finally begins to feel like she is free. But then policeman Tierney (David Lyons), who is hunting Katie down, sends an alert to police across the country saying she is wanted for murder. Soon, Katie's new life and hope for happiness is under threat as her past comes back to haunt her.

Hough has never impressed me in previous films but I was surprised that in her first role where she doesn't have to sing and dance her way through, she was actually quite good. As attractive as she is, Hough still has the girl-next-door vibe about her, which makes her endearing in this type of role. She also has great chemistry with Duhamel, who was also quite convincing as a daggy father. The wardrobe team has obviously tried to make him look as “normal” as possible and his dialogue also tries to tone down his sex appeal by making him more down to earth. The supporting cast is also quite good, including Aussie actor Lyons, who is both intimidating and a little frightening. Both Lomax and Kirkland also add some extra gusto to the film, especially Kirkland who steals just about every scene she is in. However, I still have difficulty watching Smulders in anything that is not How I Met Your Mother.

What makes Safe Haven really endearing is the relationship between Alex and his children. He lost his wife to cancer only a couple of years earlier and is desperately trying to hold onto her memory and be both father and mother to his young children. There is a kind of emotion in some of these sweet scenes that can only be so beautifully depicted by Sparks. Director Lasse Hallstrom has also steered the film well and Safe Haven certainly captures the essence of the novel.

As a fan of Sparks and the novel, I enjoyed Safe Haven. But to the men dreading being dragged by their female companions to see this film at the cinema, fear not, as there is enough suspense and action to nearly balance out the romance.