Safe Haven (2013)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Looking at past statistics, it seems a reasonable assumption that every year will be bringing to cinemas a new Nicholas Sparks adaptation. If they continue in the mold of Safe Haven, I won’t mind in the least. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with Josh Duhamel starring.

Young and foolish, Katie (Julianne Hough) once convinced herself she was in love. This didn’t end well and has brought her to the sleepy, small coastal town of Southport North Carolina. There she begins a job at a diner but is never really at ease. Only does she begin to let her guard slip when she meets the kind-hearted single father, Alex (Duhamel). The owner of the only convenience store, it isn’t long before Alex is ordering things he never stocks for the mysterious young woman while his daughter Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) begins to look forward to impromptu visits with Katie. It isn’t until her past catches up with her that the lives of those she has come to deeply love are put in danger.
There are moments in life that seem absolutely perfect. This side of heaven, they are as close to it as we are going to get, and if there is one author who creates an ideal picture of these – flaws and all, it would be Nicholas Sparks. Anytime one of his novel's is adapted for the big-screen there’s a certain amount of groaning displeasure at the news while for the rest of us who like a good story and expect nothing beyond that probability, this is one writer who weaves a memorable and compelling romance. Specifically speaking of Safe Haven, this is a particularly good one. What makes it stand apart is that the author wandered into new territory and the gamble was a success – both in book form and its subsequent screenplay.
Director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, An Unfinished Life, Dear John) reveals the skill and seasoned talent he has while telling this story. Working to the full advantage of the novelization, he uses that and fashions a timeline that may not be a carbon copy but is a darn good one that compliments Sparks story and fleshes it out for the visual aspects of the story. Landscapes are, as always stunning. Many of the scenes were called out as a rip-off of prior film adaptations which isn’t unfair. Similar scenes take shape in addition to the sentimental moments that are the typical clichéd romantics. (Basically the adage applies, “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”) However, this is more than what we’ve come to expect of this author. It has sweet and sappy romantics, yes but it alternates between that and a really good buildup of suspense to a conclusion that was exactly as it should be.
The film opens brilliantly catching us up immediately in the mystery and if you were unfamiliar with the story, you are going to be left curious as to what is going on and this is led by the talented Julianne Hough who is terrific in the role of Katie. She plays the role with class and maturity. The conversations between she and Alex start off awkward (as they should be – this is completely in character) and end up pleasantly realistic. The real scene-stealer is newcomer Mimi Kirkland who was perfectly adorable as Lexie. She met and surpassed expectations of the character while Josh (Noah Lomax) spent too much time being sullen and Josh Duhamel also made an excellent (swoon-worthy, even) hero. The greatest flaw is Katie being too quick to accept the possibility of a relationship. She was given no reason to distrust Alex but still, as the (book-loving) viewer we are too aware of her past to condone it. (Providing some leeway is no real knowledge of time’s passage – ninety minutes demands pacing be kept up and that is what this accomplishes.) In these intimate moments, there was a sense of tenderness that is usually absent and for that, this was much more intimately “passionate” than the average romance. The film work is nicely done and sets each scene up plus there is a particularly cute sequence of a day on the beach.
Fans of the book should in no way be disappointed in this. Everything that was altered was done so to enhance the movie-going experience (sans one thing) and it’s a story that is taunt and sweet in one package which does translate well to the big-screen. There are times when the characterizations are played too leniently through no real fault of the cast (did I mention they were excellent!?). All the key elements are kept the same with some minor details left untouched. In some small way, this is one of the “best” movies of its kind to come along in far too long. There is a beauty to its Southern (slow-moving) story-telling. Finally there is a Nicholas Sparks movie that is well worth the time. There are no protagonists to force ourselves to like, and the message is a romantic one that comes from a purity not often experienced at the movies.
(Rated PG13, parental review: There is one scene of intimacy [sheets cover anything inappropriate although there is a shot of a woman’s bare back and brief under the sheets movement] and one heavy “make-out” scene [implications of adultery]. Flashbacks show a woman struggling to get away from someone before she stabs him; one character is shot and killed. There is some minor profanity, sh*t, h*ll, GD. Alcohol consumption is present and a fire climaxes the ending.)


  1. I want to see this one so bad!! But alas, I shall have to wait until it comes out to rent. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Oooh! Sorry to hear that, Rosie. :/ Hope you like it once you see the DVD - and be sure to share your conclusions! :)

  2. Aw, I want to see this movie! Gotta give it to Nicholas Sparks ;)
    xo TJ

    1. It's worth seeing on the big-screen, TJ! This was a bit of a "gamble" for him given it was a different genre but it pays off. It's his best yet.

      Glad you stopped by - and hope you are feeling better!


  3. Okay, the hope is for me to go to this on Sunday. I am dying to see it =)

    You know, a bunch of critics are slamming the ending, because they thought it came out of left field. If only they had read the book, right?!

    1. YAY! Wishing right along with you, Ella that your plans work out. :) It's definitely worth seeing on the big-screen and is actually the best Sparks yet. (If you think of it, send out a tweet or email when you see it!)

      Really!? Huh, that's weird. The movie ends lots better than the book - and the suspense build up was fascinating. Saw it with my mom and she was whispering, "did she commit a crime!?" I had to chuckle at her response. Reading the book isn't necessary but if you have, you "understand" exactly what's going on though it isn't confusing for non-readers. Or it didn't seem to be.

      Looking forward to your review!!!

  4. "There are moments in life that seem absolutely perfect. This side of heaven, they are as close to it as we are going to get..." Really vivid and enticing way to describe his writing! I've heard many pros and cons to Sparks, but your reviews are certainly prompting to look into him more! Is there anything you would you recommend from him for someone who really likes pretty places (like a ranch, or some green lovely place like Ireland or anywhere in Europe), and quirky characters? Something that has an ending with at least SOME redemption in it? (Because, I can relate to prefering happy endings. :))

    1. Ironically, from what I know (I've not read most of Sparks books yet though I read spoiler comments), all of his settings are centered in the south. In places like North Carolina and Louisiana. In his works, there are some pretty descriptions since usually he takes the leading couple out for a romantic day that is spent outdoors. On-screen, this is always visually STUNNING. As for happy endings, those are either "hit" or "miss" with Sparks. Here are a few I know the ending of:

      - Dear John (movie); it upset some but is the sort of ending you can decide for yourself.
      - Dear John (book); after reading the spoilers, this one is bittersweet.
      - Nights in Rodanthe (movie); sad
      - The Last Song (movie); bittersweet with the novel presumably following.
      - The Notebook (movie); bittersweet! (Though I say it's sad!)
      - A Walk to Remember (movie); SAD!
      - Message in a Bottle (movie); REALLY SAD!
      - The Lucky One (movie); happy
      - The Lucky One (book); happy

      Sparks is a so-so author for many people. Either you like him or don't. I have enjoyed the books I read; tolerated one of his movies, detested another, haven't seen one and really like a select few (with this one being the favorite!). For me, he writes sweet, "realistic" romances that holds my interest.

      Quirky characters: Most of Sparks novels are dramas so that doesn't leave a lot of room for comedy/quirky happenings. :D

      Redemption: In 'Safe Haven,' Katie experiences a type of redemption because she has been given a second chance. Then there is Channing Tatum's portrayal of the titular character in 'Dear John' who is a real gentleman.

      Totally now what you are saying about happy endings! This is me also.

      Sorry for rambling on, Rachel! Hope this helped rather than overwhelmed.

      Thank you SO much for reading this. :)

  5. Haven't seen this one but would like to. I've only read one Sparks novel (A Walk to Remember), but I did like it (loved the movie! One of my favorites actually.). Knowing his love of sad endings, I haven't read any other books. Seen a few other movies though, and now you've made certain that I'll want to see this one. (Also I'll admit, it helps to have a handsome leading man.) (You're going to think I'm the shallowest person aren't you? This is the second time I've mentioned a character's looks. What can I say? I guess I like my leading men cute. It's okay, I know I'm silly. ;)

    1. Ironically that is the only one I've not seen yet, Kara. Know how it ends though so that makes me sad. :/ Happy to know it's good though!

      LOL! I think nothing of the kind, Kara. I like nice-looking leading men also - and Josh is a handsome face and favorite actor. ;)

      Enjoy Safe Haven. :)

    2. Oh! You should really see A Walk to Remember. It is a sad ending, but the lead up to the ending is so beautiful. Shane West does an exceptional job (in my opinion) of displaying this young man who is going through so many different emotions and changes. While it is sad, Shane's character is definitely a reason to watch it. Since you like Sparks' movies. :)

    3. Someday I'll probably rent it. I like the idea that it is such a pure relationship and Jamie is such a positive influence on Landon's life. It means a lot when a movie can step away from society's norm and be different. :)

      He may write clichéd stories but for some reason, I like Nicholas Sparks stories. Haven't even figured it out myself to be honest. LOL! If an author keeps my interest, then I like them. :)

      Thanks, Kara!!

  6. I was on the fence about seeing this one, but after reading your review I really want to see it in the theater, ASAP. Of course my friends went on opening night, so I'll have to drag the BF. :-) Great review!

    1. LOL! Hope that works out okay, Lauren. :)

      It does have elements of "suspense" so he may be surprised!

      Hope you enjoy it: Did your friends like it?

      Thanks SO much for taking time to read this and the lovely comments! Appreciate it. :)

  7. I'm so looking forward to seeing this, my (indeed about yearly) Nicholas Sparks fix. Reading that Lasse Hällstrom directed this movie makes me happy, because he's really good at this kind of stories with family drama and romance and scenic settings.

    1. His movies are picturesque, aren't they!? Fortunately this one is no different! :) Safe Haven is good as he creates some pretty romantics and the kids in this are just adorable! Everyone seems very "normal" and at ease with each other - sometimes that is hard to achieve.

      Cannot wait to read what you think of this, Birdienl! Enjoy!

  8. Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Isabella! I did as well. :)

      Thanks for commenting - visit anytime. :)


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