Safe Haven (2013) Poster

(I) (2013)

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A real surprise and touching ending to this romantic thriller
John Raymond Peterson25 April 2013
Director Lasse Hallström pulls off a surprise ending to this otherwise seemingly ordinary romantic thriller; in doing so, he redeemed what would otherwise have been a movie not worth a mention. Sure, the movie is sweet for the most part and the dramatic moments are nothing to brag about, but Hallström has been hiding the real love story all along; when it's revealed in the last scenes, we ask ourselves, how could I have not seen this and then you melt. But you do have to stick it out to the end. I don't wish to spill the beans so I'll keep mum about it. I understand some viewers are not going to be interested in the movie because of the cast, but the director's following is not without merit; after all he delivered Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Chocolat and Cider House Rules, and it's his uncanny ability to tell a story like no others is what made me want to watch the movie.
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Missing too many parts that are crucial to the storyline
kasia-cimeries4416 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Where to start?... I went to see that movie with uneasy feeling that I'm going to be disappointed and I was unfortunately right. For somebody who didn't read a book it is going to be another love story with a little thriller in it, for me it was a BAD adaptation of very excellent book. I actually knew from the beginning that movies rarely are better than book but some of them at least focus on a important details that are crucial for the storyline. This time like I suspected they missed the most important parts and replaced it with some cheap lovey dovey "I love you" moments. The escape part was showed fast and without pretty much explanation. OK. So we see husband that had too much to drink fighting with his wife, hits her couple of times, throws her on the floor than she grabs the knife and stabs him, after that she runs over to her neighbor and next thing we see is her buying a ticket and getting on the bus and leaving. The same time we can see her husband looking for her, stopping buses running like nothing had happened to him. No stab wounds. Nothing. The book was so much more intense. She was actually planning to escape for almost a year. Stealing money form his wallet, planning everything step by step. It was slow and nerve wracking process that made a reader chew his/her nails. In the movie everything happens so fast you don't even know when it started and when it ended. Also Katie's husband character wasn't showed like I would like it to be presented. He was psychopath, not only an alcoholic. His obsession with Bible and Bible's rules was a crucial point of that story. She didn't run away from abusive alcoholic husband, she run away from sick person. They didn't show it in the movie. They didn't show how twisted his mind was. I think sometimes, that he was the most important character in that story. David Lyons was a perfect for that role, I wish I could see more of his character on the screen that's all. Katie in a movie (payed by Hough) didn't convince me at all. She was looking healthy and pretty like she just came back from vacation, not run away from the hell. Katie in a book was scared, skinny, bitten up and tired. The process of her getting to know Alex was long. She didn't trust anyone for a long time. Josh Duhamel was a good choice in my opinion for Alex's character. He was good looking but not too good looking, he was very easy going, and acted very natural around the kids. But yet as a star of the movie his character was covering more important parts. It was just too much of him in some moments. The other thing they fail to do is to build up Jo character a little bit more. She was Katie's only friend there and they hang out together more often that they show in the movie. The very important conversation between two of them was missing in the movie and I felt like there was unfinished business out there. The turning point was oversimplified. Tierney finally found Katie and asked her to come home with him, when she declined he decided to burn the house down. In the book that process was slow and complex. From the very first time he sees them together to the last moment of his life, reader doesn't know what is going to happen. Why he decided to burn the place down with Katie in it?? Because bible says that when she cheats she will burn in internal flame. That was the reason why he started the fire in the first place. Alex again became a hero saving his daughter from the fire. In the book he didn't show up until everything was pretty much over. It was Katie who fought with Kevin and it was her who saved the kids. I give the movie 3+. If you didn't read the book it's going to be another love story out there. Nothing more, nothing less.

ps. Please excuse my English. I'm from Europe and this is not my native language.
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Nicholas Sparks at his best ... er, uh, I mean same.
twilliams7616 August 2013
If someone were to tell me that the latest Nicholas Sparks novel-to-a-movie adaptation would be one that starred two ridiculously attractive actors playing characters who almost fall in love when a secret from the past that can keep them apart is revealed nearly thirty minutes before the movie ends ... I would say "No $--t! Have you not been paying attention!?" Anybody who does not reside in a cave would know this.

Safe Haven is yet the latest of Sparks' novels to follow this same "winning" (they continue to be profitable!) formula/pattern and it rather saddens me this is director Lasse Hallstrom's SECOND Sparks film as the (thrice) Oscar-nominated director has made GREAT films in the past such as The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Salmon Fishing on the Yemen (I've also just realized his greatest films have an edible word in the title).

Safe Haven stars Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages) as Katie, a beautiful young woman on the run from her past. Safe Haven also stars Josh Duhamel (New Year's Eve) as Alex, a handsome widower and saintly father raising two young children in a small, coastal North Carolina town.

The two meet soon after her arrival in town and begin a friendship (rather reluctantly on her part) after she meets him at the small convenience store he runs -- his cute daughter runs the cash register! -- as he helps her with an odd assortment of items and he answers some even stranger movie-scripted questions. He even gets her a bicycle with a basket on the front (which she takes as an affront) and he orders her yellow paint. Wh-what? Exactly.

Their entire relationship is contrived in a connect-the-dots Nicholas Sparks pattern and the film's supporting players each have a single purpose for the movie -- her jerk of an ex looking for her (David Lyons - Eat Pray Love), his cop pal who can discover her secret in an instant (Ric Reitz - Flight), his children to either look cute or get into trouble, and her country neighbor giving her relationship advice on Alex (Cobie Smulders - The Avengers).

Hallstrom has made this better than most sappy melodramatic romances (and Hough and Duhamel are both likable-enough stars) but Sparks' over-the-top climatic children-in-peril moments have become eye-rolling. The film is standard Nicholas Sparks malarkey and anybody who has watched the movies based on his work knows they have much in common. This can be good or bad depending upon the person.

Beautiful actors? Check. Beautiful scenery? Check. Romance? Check. Melodrama? Check. More melodrama? Check. A scene in or near the water? Check. A young one in trouble? Check. Good story? ... uh, Bueller?
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good entertainment, but certainly a chick flick
portsea18 February 2013
I took my girlfriend to see this, mostly as she cant miss a love story film.... she wasn't disappointed with this. She loved every minute of it. As a male, I thought it was a bit wet, but still enjoyed it. Hough was an easy actress to watch, not only pretty, but accomplished at her art. This was seemingly written for her girlish look and persona. The scenery and cinematography were nothing short of amazing... Locations were perfect, id live there in a heartbeat.... Duhamal was frankly excellent in this role too, he played his part perfectly, and was the perfect choice for this film.

The script was given a twist, and I sat through most of the film not quiet sure what was going to happen next, it definitely kept me intrigued, although I found it a little slow at a few points, i still walked away liking the film as a whole.

Definitely worth going to see, certainly on the big screen, as the locations were amazing....
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Terribly Manipulative & Sappy
Larry Silverstein15 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This latest film from Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, is terribly manipulative and sappy. Additionally, I thought the acting and dialogue were, for the most part, stilted and wooden, with every attempt to pull at your "heartsrings".

In the opening scene, Julianne Hough, who portrays Katy (AKA Erin), flees what appears to be a murder scene. Boarding a bus, she eventually settles in the small town of Southport. In this idyllic town she meets Alex, played by Josh Duhamel, a widower who owns the local general store and lives in town with his two children, Lexie and Josh.

Back in Boston, where Katy fled from, a Detective Tierney is relentlessly trying to locate her, even issuing an APB naming her as a murder suspect. It's only about halfway through the film that we start to find out what's really going on.

We also find out Detective Tierney is a violent, alcoholic abuser who is actually married to Katy. His motive in finding her is to confront her and then bring her back to Boston and naturally abuse her some more. David Lyons, who portrays Tierney is actually fairly credible as the despicable and disturbed Detective.

Of course, by this point, we pretty much know what's in store here. Katy and Alex will fall in love and Detective Tierney will find out where she is and there will be a dramatic conclusion.

One positive in the movie was Mimi Kirkland, as Lexie, Alex's daughter. I thought her precociousness and likability on screen was infectious.

The twist ending (not having read the book) I thought was horribly insulting to the movie viewer and a giant set-up.

Very disappointed in the award winning Hallstrom, who has given us such wonderful films as "My Life as a Dog", "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", and "Chocolat", among others, for giving us this melodrama.
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A Love That Stands The Test of Time!
HollywoodJunket15 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
As human nature would have it, it's not a rare thing to fall in and out of love a number of times in one person's lifetime. But, then, there are those even more rare cases of finding the one true love that may occur only once in a person's life and lasting even longer than a lifetime. Relativity Media's "Safe Haven", directed by Lasse Hallstrom is a story about one of those such rare cases.

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, the story opens with a young woman, who simply goes by "Katie", played by Julianne Hough, as she is seen fiercely escaping danger. It's not yet revealed what the circumstances are. She resurfaces in the small, ocean side tourist town of Southport in North Carolina, which is also where the film was shot.

Her small town surroundings and the people within it embrace Katie a lot sooner than she is ready to reciprocate. One such resident being Alex (Josh Duhamel) who is a father of two and a widower of four years loosing his wife to cancer. A very guarded Katie is constantly reminded of her runaway status from, as more of her back-story is revealed, her husband who is a Boston police detective (David Lyons) in charge of locating escaped criminals.

With a small window of opportunity to get to know Alex and his family more, Katie decides to enter their lives as his kids start to grow more fond of her. However, when her husband's detective skills lead him directly to her, a series of events results in a new awakening for Katie and Alex's family alike where new beginnings are a welcome.

The last fifteen minutes of "Safe Haven" includes a real tear-jerker and a surprise ending is revealed. I challenge anyone to have a dry eye after that. Josh Duhamel as "Alex" and Julianne Hough as "Katie" were a perfect fit and carried the storyline perfectly.

Also very impressive performances came from child actors Noah Lomaz as "Josh", Alex's son, and Mimi Kirland as "Lexie", Alex's daughter...Full Review at -Hollywood Junket
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Amazing story
janiegun61919 January 2015
I watched Safe Haven knowing that Nicholas Sparks wrote the story, and not having read the book. This movie completely exceeded my expectations. As I write this, the tears are drying on my face. I believed the chemistry was there with the actors and the romance had a good build-up (not rushed). I like that the story was easy to follow. The actions scenes were well-directed and realistic. I like how the story incorporates action, suspense, drama, and romance, all in one. What really moved (shocked) me was the ending. It was so beautiful and I just started bawling. It was so moving. As a whole, I really enjoyed this movie.
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Amiable but trite
Neil Welch11 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A young woman goes on the run following a violent incident. Changing her hair colour and calling herself Katie, she arrives at a small seaside town where she soon makes friends, including a handsome young man, conveniently widowed with two young children. However, a police officer is on her trail...

What we have here is a romance, cross-pollinated with a mystery about Katie's backstory and a suspense thriller about the police officer who is after her, coupled with a couple of other cross-genre oddments (the young son who can't let go of his mother, will he bond with Katie or reject her, and so on). I am lucky: I have not read the book on which this film is based, nor have I seen Sleeping With The Enemy (on account of my cordial dislike of the vastly overrated Julia Roberts) so, for me, this movie was not totally devoid of surprises. Having said that, I didn't find too much here to make my jaw drop.

The main strength of the film is Julianne Hough as Katie. This is the third film I have seen her in, and she is both easy on the eye and able to project an innate likability. The part of Katie stretches her a little more than Footloose and Rock Of Ages did, and she does well enough. Josh Duhamel as sensitive and hunky widower Alex is sensitive and hunky, David Lyons as nemesis Tierney is satisfactorily over the top in a caricature part, and Mimi Kirkland as moppet Lexie walks away on diminutive legs with every scene she is in.

This is mostly a nice film - overflowing with niceness in fact which, in some quarters, might be regarded as a criticism - leavened with a touch of nastiness. I liked it, but was under no illusions that it was anything other than a potboiler (with a rather daft and unnecessary twist at the end).
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A Little Bit Bland
rebecca-ry24 March 2013
'Safe Haven' is from the same author as romantic classic 'The Notebook.' 'Safe Haven' is not exactly as generic as 'The Notebook' but it does qualify as pretty boring in terms of cinematic exploration.

Despite the story – on paper – seeming fairly interesting and relatively unique to the romantic genre, the film still manages to bore you for the first hour of it. In fact, the last 30 minutes of the film are sadly the most interesting. Before that we have endless conversations that seem pointless and clichéd, naff romantic gestures and unrealistic characters. Domestic abuse is sadly a very real problem for many but this film somehow makes the issue seem very unrealistic and as something so dramatic it could never happen in real life. Beautiful people deal with their problems in a beautiful, idyllic small town very quickly and very easily, it isn't exactly interesting.

The acting was a lot better than I had expected; Julianne Hough was a bit flat in some scenes but her performance wasn't bad – just not memorable. Josh Duhamel gave a fairly good performance; he was not playing a pretty face with zero background like he has done in other films and he managed to show he can act with at least a little depth. David Lyons gave the best performance in the film but unfortunately had the least amount of screen time. Playing the creepy, alcoholic, abusive husband, he made the final act worth watching and was quite scary.

Overall, the film certainly is not a bad film; it just isn't a very interesting or memorable one. It's full of clichés and there are not many emotional, heart-warming scenes so it is a little bit bland.
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Very good movie with a great ending
lansdenrs16 February 2013
Josh Duhamel was awesome in this movie. He played a sweet sensible guy that was perfect for Julianne Hough. This movie had a great plot with good romance combined with a mystery and drama. It was worth every penny I spent on valentines day. The final 10 minutes was probably my favorite part. It had a big twist that got me and has stuck with me since i saw it. The writing was excellent as was the directing. It was one of the better romance movies I have seen in a while. It was a perfect valentine movie. When I went I really didn't think that.

If you are looking for a romantic drama to spend with you wife/husband look no further than Safe Haven.
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A big No
sejla9023 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After watching this movie I just had to write review for the first time. If you have any expectations don't watch this movie. I didn't read the book, but this movie have killed my every wish to do that. It gives you feeling that scenes have been cut off, you gain no familiarity to characters, and they will never let you join the true story. Okay, we have some dark beginning, tormented women, who after 3 days at seaside forgets everything, looks amazing and so quickly falls for a guy that it is funny. I love Josh Duhamel, but that is all I loved about this movie. Everything happening so fast, but yet, making audience bored, well, that's a quality we most certainly look in a movie. I was so disappointed, that only tears coming from me were for my wasted time. I regret watching this "la la la" movie. Guess, Notebook was one of a kind for Sparks, and since then he just gets worse with time. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME.
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Good romance with suspense: 7,25
manusanchez9022 April 2013
I will not compare this movie with the novel on which it is based because I have not read it. "Safe haven" is not innovator at all, it is one more romantic drama with a quiet predictable ending, but at the same time, with some mystery and some twists that kept me amused and paying attention during its entire length. It is not as good as "The notebook", but it is better than "Dear John" and "The lucky one", in my opinion. Anyway, these four are very alike to each other and based on the respective novels written by the same author. Lasse Hallstrom proofs again he is an efficient director of dramas (I cannot say versatile, because he has not directed more genres ). He has been able to take advantage of the cast, which is not particularly great, but good enough. The photography is one of the best elements of the movie. It is mainly located in Northern Carolina (in a quiet coastal village) and I really liked the environment. The pace is fluid. It made me pay attention from the beginning. It does not obviously have the same pace that action movies should have. The plot contains just a few good unexpected twists and some flashbacks. The plot is easy to follow and adds no confusion, which is good. The acting is good enough. I am not a fan of any actor from this mo vie, but they all did a decent job and are believable in their respective roles. Josh Dushamel and Julianne Hough are the two leading ones, specially her, who is not famous at all. In conclusion, those who really like this sort of movies will surely enjoy this one even though it is not a top romantic drama. The intrigue and photography are added value. The cast is not great, but good enough. The film is well-paced, but it is not original at all. 7,25.
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the ending will blow your mind...good movie but not that well romantic thanks to Lasse Hallström
Abed Naddaf14 February 2013
if you are looking for a love movie then you had made the right choice this movie is a simple story yet good story lining not as well as your expectations but you will love it. if your hoping for a second notebook you have to know its not that good...

okay maybe Julianne Hough is not the right actress to be in this role but she did her best and you may like her innocence in her role but i didn't like her so much...

Directed by Lasse Hallström, the movie will teach us that in the darkest hour, love is the only light that shines there in… the dark…or something like that. An affirming and suspenseful story about a young woman's struggle to love again description will work out just fine...

i don't want to talk so much about the movie go watch it what are you waiting for and maybe you will use some tissues so go for it and have a good time...

its my first review and I'm not good as well in English hope it helps tank you for reading...
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Loved it!
Katie-Quesnell24 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I may be partial to the film having waited a long time to see it. As soon as I found out Julianne Hough had been cast (I' a long standing fan from back in her DWTS days!) I knew I just had to see the film! I went out and bought the book and quickly read it in a matter of days.

When I finally saw the film I was not disappointed. Although some features of the book had been changed I felt that the key elements were there. I appreciated the directorial style of Lasse Halstrom.

Julianne Hough, in my biased opinion, was stellar. As a breakthrough in her first serious dramatic role I was impressed. Josh Duhamel as usual is lovely and beautiful to watch on screen. The real scene stealer, however, is young Mimi Kirkland who plays Lexie. Her comedic timing and toothless smile added an adorable element to the film.

The whole film seemed so natural that there was an obvious, stark contrast to the drama and thriller aspect in the end. When Kevin Tierney reaches Katie in Southport the tone of the film changes. You've almost forgotten that you're watching a film, but rather a real relationship be built when suddenly Tierney is there, brooding over the characters.

I loved the film depiction of this novel as well as the acting of Josh, Julianne, Mimi, Cobie Smulders, and Noah Lomax. I highly recommend it and would go so far as to say it's a must see! Of course the romantic comedy fans will eat it up, but the men who are dragged along might enjoy it more than they think!
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We All Need a Safe Haven Sometimes
Sean Jump21 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
On a dark, rain-swept night, a young woman named Katie flees from her suburban home and into the arms of a generous neighbor. A few hours later, Katie is boarding a bus headed out of town while a police detective scurries to find her before she can make good her escape. He fails, and soon Katie is headed south, on her way to what she hopes will be a new life. But the past is never far behind and secrets have a way of coming out. Is there a safe haven anywhere in the world for Katie?

Adapted from a novel by bestselling writer Nicholas Sparks, SAFE HAVEN is a story of trust, redemption, and of course, love. The script, which is for the most part well-crafted and deserved credit for avoiding a number of the clichés that often taint romantic dramas, does a good job of establishing a credible cast of characters, especially Katie. Julianne Hough plays the role of the runaway woman with sincerity and passion, and her performance keeps the story grounded. Josh Duhamel is also excellent as Josh, a single father with two small children who is struggling to keep his life together in the wake of his beloved wife's death. Josh is clearly attracted to Katie from their first meeting, but Katie is reluctant to return his attentions. There is a good reason for her initial reticence, though like Josh the viewer remains in the dark early on.

The truth is only slowly revealed, much of it in flashbacks from Katie's nightmares, but meanwhile the cop from the opening scene tirelessly works to pick up her trail. David Lyons is great as the crusading detective, consumed by an almost unnatural passion to find Katie and bring her in. He, too, has secrets. Going into more of the plot would be a disservice.

Despite the straightforward nature of the storyline, there are a number of clever twists and it takes a while for all the characters' backstories to play out. Seeing the numerous plot threads unravel at their own pace and savoring the unexpected turns is a big part of what makes SAFE HAVEN more than your usual romance.

SAFE HAVEN is a terrific date movie. It is first and foremost a love story, but the film treats the subject with more respect than your typical teenage drama. The characters are mostly adults and the themes they must wrestle with are serious ones with no easy answers. In the end, the story affirms the value of trust, home, and family, and that those things are worth fighting for even if it means facing up to your worst fear.
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Another failed Sparks adaptation
estebangonzalez1010 May 2013
¨There's no safer place for you than here with me.¨ Chicks will definitely love this film, but I found it to be yet another recycled Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Sparks may have a fan base through his novels and movie adaptations, but if he continues to write the same movie over and over again he will eventually lose them all. I was a fan of The Notebook because the relationship felt authentic and Sparks writing was new to me, I really liked it, but Safe Haven is completely flawed. Not only is it full of romantic clichés (we get to see another canoeing scene in a lake interrupted by rain like in The Notebook), but it has some of the worst plot twists I've seen in film history. I guess it was an attempt from Sparks to make this film different from the rest, but the suspense and thrills never worked. It felt like The Stepfather with the melodrama from any chick flick you've seen. It's too bad Safe Haven didn't work because I like Swedish director, Lasse Hallstrom, who has made Chocolat, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. This is one film that he would probably want to erase from his resume. The writers in charge of adapting Sparks' novel were Dana Stevens (City of Angels and For Love of the Game) and Gage Lansky. The script was weak, predictable, and extremely mushy. The film also suffers from a weak lead performance from Julianne Hough who was much better in the musicals she starred in: Burlesque and Rock of Ages. Her performance never felt believable and that hurt the chemistry with her co-star Josh Duhamel, who has also made a living off rom-coms like When in Rome, or Life as We Know It. Those mediocre movies look like masterpieces when compared to Safe Haven. Duhamel is a likable actor, but Hough's performance made it difficult to tolerate this film. The movie begins with a young scared girl named Katie (Julianne Hough) making a frenetic escape from her hometown in Boston to a small North Carolina town known as Southport. She's running from something, but we are never shown exactly what happened. All we know is that something happened in her home involving a knife and a man, and now she has cut her hair and died it blonde and has escaped to this isolated place. Police officer, Tierney (David Lyons), tries to hunt her down but gets to the bus station a few seconds late. Katie decides that Southport is the perfect place to start over and finds a nice little cabin in the woods and a job at a local coffee shop. Katie tries to keep to herself, but she forms a nice bond with a little girl named Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) who is the daughter of widowed Alex (Josh Duhamel). Alex soon falls for Katie's good looks and they grow closer together. However Katie never mentions anything about her past. Katie also befriends her neighbor, Jo (Cobie Smulders), who seems to always be there for her for good advice. As Katie begins to fall for Alex more and more, she is still haunted by her past and isn't sure what her next move should be. Thus the melodrama begins. Safe Haven had some beautiful shots of romantic locations, but it was full of clichés and bad dialogues. At times while the music was playing the film even felt like one long music video or commercial. Safe Haven also suffers from an extensively long plot. At almost two hours I kept waiting for the end to approach, and it never did. One plot twist after another the film continued to grow increasingly tiring and tedious. By the end if you thought the film was entertaining you will be left with a bad taste in your mouth because the final twist is just ridiculous. Yes the film is romantic and sweet and girls will love this movie, but I don't think the male audience will be won over by the suspense and thrills. It didn't work for me, there was just no depth to the characters or the story.
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There's no safe haven from Nicholas Sparks
gregeichelberger22 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There are mass murderers and former dictators rotting away in prison cells who have done better for the human condition than author, Nicholas Sparks. If Nicholas Sparks was a conflict he would be the Hundred Years War; if he were a baseball team he would be the 1962 New York Mets; if he were a boxer he'd be Jerry Quarry.

Since 2004's "The Notebook," which at least earned praise for the inclusion of veteran stars James Garner and Gena Rowlands, but catcalls for Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (at least Gosling has become a better actor since), Sparks has become the antithesis to romantic dramas and to good film, in general.

Follow-ups such as "Dear John," "The Last Song" and "The Lucky One," have all gotten progressively (or even exponentially) worse. That pattern continues with his latest Valentine's Day release, "Safe Haven," which is nothing more than "Sleeping with the Enemy" meets "The Lucky One." In fact, during this picture I quietly prayed for Zac Efron to appear and make everything better again.

Directed by Lasse Hallström (the man behind such quality productions as "My Life as a Dog," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "The Cider House Rules"), this picture has a woman on the run trying to hide her identity but stumbles upon love in an unbelievably bucolic North Carolina fishing village.

Katie ("Rock of Ages" Julianne Hough, as in "hough" did she get up on the big screen? Answer, she's living with Ryan Seacrest — talk about sleeping one's way to the bottom) flees a murder rap in Boston in a bus and is trying to avoid a psycho police office (David Lyons, "Eat Pray Love").

Conveniently, she settles in South Point where few people speak, with the exception of general store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel, "Transformers" franchise), a widower with a cute, ready-made Hollywood family (including the robotic kid actor who was so bad in "Playing for Keeps").

He is smitten, but she's a cold fish (remember, she has "secrets" that WE know about, but Alex does not). He makes small talk, she ignores it, he gives her a bicycle, she cannot accept it, etc., etc., etc. But of course, since this is a Nicholas Sparks' adaptation, you know love — and a certain amount of lust — is just lurking around the corner.

Soon, she discovers what a wonderful, caring, handsome man he is — and he loves children, to boot. Alex is, after all, a '90s woman. In the third act, though, we know a certain cop will show up to add what little drama his arrival can add to a film like this and it takes a plot twist from the planet Pluto to save the day.

It has been said that Sparks (who now boasts his own production company, so the "fun" will continue for years to come) has trouble writing men, but can certainly capture women. After "Safe Haven," I can honestly say he cannot write ANYONE.

His latest effort is schmaltzy, predictable, clichéd to the point of absurdity, and has no chemistry whatsoever between his good-looking leads. In fact, now that I think about it, "Safe Haven" actually is the perfect Valentine's Day date movie — provided, of course, that you and your date avoid it at all costs.
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An interchangeable haven
Steve Pulaski16 February 2013
A good romantic comedy is something I enjoy talking about, and my single relationship status has never been a merit for not liking a particular film of the genre. Just thought I'd make that clear, so I didn't have to sift through responses saying at how I'm romantically ignorant to films like Safe Haven because I've never experienced a true romance myself.

Let me tell you, if real-life romances are anything like the schmaltzy, picturesque, contrived trite presented with us in the latest Nicholas Sparks film adaptation, I'd rather be eternally bound to my pet cat. Marking the eight Sparks film adaptation, Safe Haven isn't impossibly unromantic like The Vow (not a Sparks-coined film, but last year's Valentine's Day cash-grab), yet it stems from the same touchy, over-sentimentalized roots many of these pictures do, offering nothing more than a cheap escapist fantasy.

The backdrop for this story is Southport, North Carolina, a coastal area which is populated with happy, good-looking, witty white people that look like they were cut out of GQ/Maxim magazine covers. Southport is the place where our protagonist Katie Feldman (Julianne Hough) believes she can find solace in, after catching a bus and a plane, running away from an unknown problem in the beginning of the film.

Upon touching down, she tries out the area a bit before buying a rundown shack in the middle of absolute nowhere, and when she goes to buy paint for her floors, she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his two sweetheart children, Josh and Lexi. Alex is instantly attracted to Katie and it's not hard to find out why. She's petite, built nicely, her blonde hair flows so majestically when the coast winds pick up that she is the dreamgirl of almost anyone. But Katie isn't totally ready for a relationship, as she is trying to forget her past of course. She drums up a relationship with Jo (Cobie Smulders), a local southerner who attempts to teach her the noble ways of the land she has just set foot on.

As anyone can tell, Alex and Katie begin hanging out more, inevitably become more attracted to one another, and all in good time for that pesky problem burdening Katie's past to come back and bite her.

There's an irritating emptiness to Safe Haven, which is beginning to drive me nuts in new romantic films (romantic comedies are a somewhat different story). Many modern films of the genre feature the same little details; a very attractive couple, incredulous situations, postcard worthy landscapes, little development between characters, uninteresting side-characters, and irrelevant small-talk between characters that are enough to drive those still living in reality up the wall. The Nicholas Sparks film exist in an augmented reality, where coincidences are more than prevalent to several situations and there is a romance that is seemingly eternal. I do not discourage Sparks films, but I believe that they rely too much on fantasy and not enough on reality. A little fantasy is fine, but when they're consistently plagued by incredulity and far-fetched setups, they become redundant, and worse, the films become interchangeable (before you disagree, look up the posters for The Last Song, The Lucky One, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Safe Haven, and A Walk to Remember and then tell me the small little notable differences that differentiate those films apart). Sparks has successfully found out how to profit greatly from the romantic genre, and his name has become etched into the minds of young girls and older ones, who will pay for anything he makes and remark on how beautiful and incredible it all was.

Take The Notebook for example. Cute story, decent characters, some great acting by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, but nothing more than, again, an escapist fantasy. The alleged twist ending and emotional finale was something I discovered long before the film was over and that sort of soiled the experience that I was expecting to have a very strong, poignant resonance with. If that's the best story Sparks ever told, than I'm less optimistic about what future Valentine's Day weekends will bring to me.

Safe Haven features decent performances from its lead actors, but this is a soap-opera at best. It adheres to formula and predictability more-so than characters and plot progression, and the twist ending it tacks on at the end is laughably unbelievable in multiple regards. I return full circle to inform my readers that I am not lonely, depressed, socially-troubled, or took any personal feelings about being single to this film. I'm just sick of by-the-numbers romances.

Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, and David Lyons. Directed by: Lasse Hallström.
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A Romance that does not feel very romantic
atlasmb18 January 2014
I was underwhelmed by Safe Haven, mostly because I cared little about the characters for most of the film--except for the little girl, Lexie, who was the high point of the film.

I was going to rate it a 6 until the bogus ending, for which I am deducting 2 points.

The acting, overall, is okay. Still it is not convincing. The story is, I think, the film's weakness. Besides the fact it did not endear the characters to me, I felt that the actions of the characters were not true to life, making their personality traits contradictory. Also, I feel the story development was too slow.

Finally, the beginning of the film and the end of the film feel like they were slapped together from two different movies. For a better first part, see almost any romantic drama. For a better second half, see Cape Fear starring Robert Mitchum.
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Perfect Date Night Flick for Adults
rannynm15 February 2013
I was expecting this movie to be just another chick-flick romance, but since this film adds thrill and mystery to a typically cheesy genre, I find myself enjoying it a lot more.

It is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who also directed "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" which is one of my favorite movies. I really enjoy Lasse's style when it comes to scenery and direction, so I find the cinematography in this film to be very beautiful and picturesque. I also enjoy the soundtrack to this movie because it has the perfect balance of sappy romantic melodies, as well as suspenseful pieces to fit the mood of each scene.

The one thing that really bothers me about this movie is the end. There is a pretty substantial plot twist in the middle of the movie, but then another one is thrown in at the very last scene. It is completely unnecessary and takes the film from being relatively realistic, to being totally unrealistic. I hate to say this, but it's just dumb.

My favorite character is Tierney (David Lyons.) He is a detective who plays a major part in the plot, and he has by far the most convincing performance. Every time he comes on the screen, I get this creepy feeling that he isn't exactly what he seems. The main thing I look for when it comes to acting is whether or not the actors are able to make the audience feel something, and David definitely succeeds.

I recommend Safe Haven for audiences ages 13 and up, due to mature content, such as violence and abuse. Ages 13-18 will get the most enjoyment out of it, but it would also be a perfect date night flick for adults. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars, so go check out Safe Haven! Raven Devanney, age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
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Sleeping With The Enema.......
James Bourke5 March 2013
So it goes like this, my wife suggested the other day that we might go see a movie of a mutual choice, currently playing in the local cinema is Mama(my kind of movie) Being a fan of Nicholas Sparks's previous adaptations, particularly The Notebook & Nights In Rodanthe, the mutual nature of choosing together went completely out the window as I thought to myself, lets do the date movie thing.

Now apart from the Nicholas Sparks reference I knew nothing about the movie, and granted I prefer to watch horror movies, whodunnits, as I have done all the live long day, I have as I've gotten older broaden my scope when it comes to big screen entertainment.

However there comes a time in a married man's life when you gotta say, whoa nellie! what on earth am I watching here.

Now if ever a movie deserved spoilers to dissuade fellow patrons from parting with their hard earned cash, then this be the movie to spill the beans with, that being said, we should all judge for ourselves and be adult about it.

When my wife put forth the movie as said date movie, I kept calling it No Safe Haven(my mind was thinking about an old Wings Hauser movie) and I nearly asked for two ticket for that movie. As the movie began to unfold, my mind drifted toward the old Patrick Bergin/Julia Roberts rib tickler Sleeping With The Enemy.

Now I said no spoilers, and I will stay true to my promise, but sleeping with the enemy is all I will say, and truthfully that's all that permeated through my mind as the movie played. About half an hour into the movie I begged my wife to set me free, but she gripped my arm with a vice like grip and made me sit with her.

Many thoughts ran through my mind, Josh Duhamel you are better than this. Lasse Halstrom do you ever remember directing My Life As A Dog, good god man you don't need the money that badly and lastly Mr Nicholas Sparks, how dare you! In recent times you have systematically resurrected the romantic drama from it's slumber but with this glossy piece of dreck you are trying to pull the wool over the cinema patron's eye.

Something told me that we were not going to be in the same territory as his previous screen adaptations, and I said as much to the wife, when I exclaimed to her 'Something tells me my love, you are not going to shed a tear at this one' but hey what do I know, I'm a guy(as the character in Say Anything said, the world is full of guys, be a man) well I'm man enough to say, this was not the movie for me, and if you check out what I've reviewed in the past, you might well agree.

That being said, you've been warned, No Safe Haven.....sorry Sleeping With The Enema is instantly forgettable. Even My wife agreed with me and that's not an easy thing for her to do.
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Need a safe haven from Julianne Hough
Buff27 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Technically a decent movie - However the worst possibly acting by Julianne Hough - 101 on how to be a blonde bland plastic doll and get everything wrong. Perhaps she needs some lessons from the little girl who does a great job.

The Jo ghost becomes an unexplained flop show at the end which lets the viewer down again - I am wondering who writes such stories in 2013. Too much sugary stuff thrown in at various places (you know you are going to roll in sugar as soon as you listen to the number playing in the beginning) A few tiny moments here and there in an otherwise small beach town cliché plastic concoction.
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Unimaginably Boring for so much Potential
deborahjwood19 February 2014
This story line had so much potential with domestic abuse, redemption, love, family, but the screen writers TOTALLY missed the mark - Josh Duhamel does a decent job - not the vacuous role he is usually placed in and pulls off more than a pretty face here - David Lyons as the alcoholic Detective Tiernny and abusive husband of Hough shined - he seems made for bad guy roles - Julianne Hough - I think the girl has some potential as actor given a more meaty role but as stated this was painfully drawn out with idyllic lazy southern settings where IMPOSSIBLY in a town of 2000 no one questions the appearance of a newcomer and in fact embraces her without question (being from the south - that "ain't" how we operate - if you are in town for more than 48 hours we know everything about you if we have to pry it out with a velvet crowbar), impossible circumstances, clichés enough to fill a NY phone book. Oh how I wish they'd made the most of this story line.

All of this being said - the last 40 minutes was great and the ending? TOTALLY unexpected - right out of left field - loved it - knowing what I know now I would watch the first 20 minutes to get the lay of the land and characters, then skip to 108 and watch to the end. Sadly I cannot give this more than a 3 thanks to an awful job by the screen writers.
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I've seen this before....
Hcarll247613 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This was shown on my flight, therefore I watched it to pass the time. My first impression was that it was made for TV. I later found out that this is not the case. I have to admit, before i continue, that I did miss the first 15 minutes of the film. However, I was easily able to catch up on the story within a couple of minutes. I was amazed at how closely this resembled another movie made in the 90s starring Julia Roberts. It's called With the Enemy. From the abusive husband stalking his runaway wife, to the small town escape locale, and sweet, sensitive new love interest - heck, even the 4th of July parade scene where it all goes wrong! I liked Sleeping With the Enemy, however, even if this movie wasn't a total ripoff, the acting, storyline and ending of this version was movie making at its absolute worst.
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Seems a bit familiar
writerfrancoford14 February 2013
Southport, North Carolina serves as the backdrop for the latest Nicholas Sparks novel optioned for the big screen. With seventeen published novels under his belt, this marks the eighth book made into a feature length film. Director and Academy Award nominee, Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) was challenged with bringing Safe Haven to the big screen. Hallström attempts to compete with the bankable success of The Notebook and Message in a Bottle—some of Sparks' earlier works.

Julianne Hough portrays Katie Feldman, who finds herself in a small seaside town after fleeing a crime scene. Though the circumstances of the crime are intended to be unclear and slowly revealed throughout the film, Katie's demeanor acutely paints her as the innocent victim. On the run and guarded, she attempts to settle into her new surroundings, all while keeping people at bay. Katie yearns for solitude and safety, but to the contrary, allows herself to be befriended by Jo (Cobie Smulders), a mysterious neighbor.

Katie still isn't too trusting when Alex (Josh Duhamel), the charming widower with two kids, attempts to court her. Jo encourages her to let down her guard and take a leap of faith. It's not long before the two become inseparable. Even Alex's young daughter, Lexi (Mimi Kirkland), instantly bonds with Katie, but Josh (Noah Lomax) isn't as easy to win over. Josh, a bit older than Lexi, is still scarred by the loss of his mother and isn't looking for a replacement. Eventually, Katie wins him over, but not before her past catches up with her. She is soon faced with the choice of running again or facing her past head on.

On its own merits, Safe haven is a likable flick, but considering the films legacy, it reads much like a familiar recipe. The recipe calls for a small rural town, a damsel in distress, impeding danger or tragedy, and the proverbial hero on a white horse. Even the movie posters of its predecessors all look quite similar. The film skirts around the issue of domestic violence, but somehow manages to sanitize the very subject matter, which earns it a PG-13 rating. After a somewhat intense physical confrontation, Katie looks far from battered. Whether intentional or not, the de-emphasis of abuse gives the film more of a fairytale feel than serious narrative. The attempt to keep the subject matter light is clearly an attempt to make the love story the driving force of the film. The drawback is that it leaves the film with no depth-killing its potential. Make no mistake; it will be a hit with Sparks fans that are fine with the mere love story. The producers are definitely pandering to their base.

Aside from the scripts shortcomings, the performances are above par. Young Mimi Kirkland gives a bubbly performance, often stealing the scene. It's tough to ask more of Hough and Duhamel, especially with the limits of the script. Safe Haven is nothing more than a safe bet.

Franco Ford
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