“Safe Haven,” a film based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks and directed by Lasse Hallström, is a love story with unexpected twists that not only keep the audience guessing but also offer a change of pace from a traditional romantic Sparks story.
The movie focuses on Katie (Julianne Hough) and her start to a new life after escaping a mysterious and suspicious situation. In the opening scene of the movie, Katie is shown holding a bloody knife before she flees the scene. Immediately, a sense of suspense is established, and the movie takes a turn from other, more light-hearted Sparks films.
Katie arrives in the small town of Southport, N.C., after evading the police, where she meets a widowed store owner, Alex (Josh Duhamel), and his two young children. Katie develops a romantic relationship with Alex and befriends his family but still fears her past will catch up to her. While Katie is beginning her new life in Southport, the detective Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) is doing everything in his power to find her.
The romantic element of the movie is effective because the film focuses on Hough and Duhamel’s characters. Katie and Alex’s chemistry develops as the characters spend time together and grow to care for each other, and the film takes time to build their relationship. In one memorable scene, Katie joins Alex and his family on a trip to the beach. Their playful interactions and flirting are sincere and endearing to watch.
Initially it may seem that Hough’s portrayal of Katie lacks emotion, however, as the movie unfolds, her character’s reserved nature is her way of concealing the secrets she harbors. Her fears are portrayed through the director’s use of cinematic techniques. Flashbacks to different scenes keep the audience engaged and intrigued, and Hallström successfully creates dark, intense and thrilling scenes with his choice of camera shots, angles and the fast pace of scene changes.
“Safe Haven” is different from other Sparks stories because the film doesn’t focus only on the romantic relationship but adds the secrecy and darkness of Katie’s past as well. The budding relationship is important, but the story is not as predictable as movies such as “The Lucky One.” The story explores dark and intense themes, which is not a common element in other Sparks movies.
“Safe Haven” does follow the typical Sparks mold: tragedy, romance and a coastal North Carolina town, but there are differences, which make it a special Sparks experience compared to his other romantic stories. As a romantic movie, the film is definitely worth seeing on a date night, a girls’ night or if another love story is too irresistible to pass up.
Film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel “Safe Haven,” shines with cast and directing.