Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, “Safe Haven” offers us the same well-worn love story and predictable plot points leading up to a melodramatic climax.
Katie (Julianne Hough) is a runaway who decides to start a new life in an oceanside town in Atlanta. What she’s running from we don’t know, but based on the nightmares that continue to wake her up throughout the film, we can infer she was the victim of an assault. She meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a local store owner and recent widower, left raising two kids. Katie lets her guard down as the two begin bonding, but problems arise when a detective from her hometown won’t give up the search to find Katie and bring her back.
“Safe Haven” is Sparks’ eighth novel adapted into a film, and based on the success of this film’s predecessors, it appears he isn’t changing his narrative formula anytime soon.
If you’re a fan of his novels or previous films, perhaps you’ll enjoy the predictable love story, humdrum proclamations of affection and expected tragedy, but it’s all so familiar the break from convention is a necessity desired more than anything else, except maybe the desire for longer scenes of a shirtless Duhamel.
However, it’s not all stale. The dialogue between the two main characters felt surprisingly organic and was believable for the first half of the film. Most surprising of all was Alex’s daughter Lexi (Mimi Kirkland) who vibrated with such youthful energy and amiability she almost outshone the two main players.
The problem with “Haven” is not believing these two people are falling in love, but believing we can experience this film with a refreshing point-of-view. Ironically, just like Katie runs away to start over on a “clean canvas,” as she puts it, we’re stuck watching the same canvas that’s already been painted on from Sparks’ previous films.
We get a moment of reflection on a pier similar to a scene in “Dear John;” a date where the couple are seen canoeing through oddly romantic-looking foliage, like in “The Notebook,” minus the ducks; and walks on the beach, like in—well, all of Sparks’ films for that matter.
If you’re looking for a suitable date-night flick, “Haven” is the appropriate selection. As the title implies, it’s a safe bet and a good excuse to cuddle up next to your date during the tear-jerker ending. And if you’re a fan of Sparks, you’ll take comfort in knowing this film employs his same conventional storytelling. But if you’re weary of watching the same monotonous film over and over again, you need not watch “Haven” to know what happens.
Cristina can be reached at: [email protected]