A young woman (Julianne Hough) is on the run, evading a Boston policeman and heading off across the US. She stops in a small town where she decides to hole up for a while under the name Katie. She wants to lay low and avoid forming any attachments, especially as she knows the cop will still be after her.
Despite her best efforts to keep people away, she starts to develop a connection with a local widower, Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his kids, as well as her new neighbour, Jo (Cobie Smulders). As she falls deeper for Alex, Katie begins to think maybe she’s found a future. However with a nationwide manhunt out saying she’s wanted for murder and a policeman determined to find her no matter where she is, the secrets of her past inevitably begin to emerge.
Following The Notebook, Dear John, The Last Song and The Lucy One, rather soppy romances based on Nicholas Sparks books are becoming a subgenre in their own right. While the plots of these movies superficially seem different, they’re actually pretty much the same, with the biggest difference being whether they involve members of the military or not.
Safe Haven even has the same director as Dear John, Lasse Hallstrom, and it definitely fits into the mould of the earlier Sparks films. Its main problem however is that familiarity breeds contempt, and for about the first hour and 20 minutes Safe Haven is a very generic and rather dull romance between two very generic and rather dull people. It’s the equivalent of people you vaguely know getting together – you’re happy they have, but you don’t really care that much or want to hear all about it.
Things get a little more interesting when the secrets of Katie’s past emerge, but most viewers will have worked out what’s happening long before it’s revealed, robbing even that of much of the power it could have had. Indeed, there’s a slight edge with that of taking a very serious subject and cheapening it for easy plot developments and drama.
Then, right at the end, it goes from rather dull to downright stupid, with a revelation that’s been badly foreshadowed and seems dumb and out of place. It’s supposed to be a powerful, sentimental moment that’ll have everyone blubbing like babies, but while it might work for some, it’ll just annoy a lot of other people and have some simply going ‘huh?’. It’s manipulative and needed much more skilled handling to make it work.
The special features include an alternate ending, which I’d hoped would have completely removed this hokey coda to the movie, but it doesn’t, it just tweaks it a little. Other than that there are a couple of rather generic featurettes that aren’t really worth your time.
Overall Verdict: Some of the Nicholas Sparks movies have been pretty good, but this is way too generic for its own good, with a ridiculously predictable plot, dull characters and a very silly ending.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac