Katie, a young woman with a mysterious past, lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Nicholas Sparks is a well known love-story novelist who has written such books as The Notebook, Message In A Bottle and Dear John. These have all been adapted to screen. His now eighth novel that has been filmed for the big screen, is SAFE HAVEN.
The film starts a little too quickly. It felt like KATIEs (Julianne Hough) past had been brushed over and I didn’t feel enough was revealed for the audience to determine from the beginning her situation and thought process. She obviously has run away, however there are minor errors as by the time Katie has time to cut and dye her hair, KEVIN (David Lyons) would have time to find her. Also, it just felt a little too predictable. The film didn’t reveal too much of her ‘past’ and what she was running away from which kept the audience in suspense until it was revealed about half way through. The decision to withhold that information was a great choice in my opinion as it gave Katie’s past and fears depth and interest.
The small town of Southport set in (none other than) North Carolina (where Katie ends up staying). The town is cute and friendly and exactly how I had imagined after reading the book. Her run down cottage she rents was exactly how I had imagined as well. The set design and locations where carefully selected and stayed true to the novels descriptions, bar a few minor details which are mostly irrelevant. There is one scene in particular which was a major let down for me – when Katie and Alex are canoeing. It felt too much like a recreation of the magical scene between Noah and Ally in The Notebook, except, less intense and with a relaxed approach. A voice over was used at the end of the film which could have been avoided, especially ending the film with the voice over; there are many ways in which a film can communicate to an audience without using a voice over.
LEXIE, played by Mimi Kirkland performed beautifully. She brought a sense of innocence to her role and was definitely too cute. ALEX played by Josh Duhamel, is just too perfect. He plays the role of Alex, a widower and father of two kids, with charm and full of optimism and bad pick up lines, which complimented Katie – Alex’s love interest. Hough has a way at playing the ‘damsel in distress’ with hidden mystery quite well. She doesn’t over act, but, at times I did feel as though Hough was a little disconnected from her character. All in all, she did a fine job and the chemistry between Hough and Duhamel is warming and uplifting throughout.
The director, Lasse Hallström, had a clear vision for the film and made multiple choices that had benefit the films final product and edit. Hallström had directed DEAR JOHN, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. He has a way with directing warm, heart breaking/happy ending films. A talented director and I enjoyed his work with SAFE HAVEN. Novel adaptations are never easy, especially when it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel
Overall, I think the film is a great romantic story with comedic scenes that balance the drama quite nicely. The acting is great and working with kids is definitely not an easy task, so I commend Hallström in that respect. I recommend you watch the film before reading the book, as the book goes into much more detail. Understandably a film is usually only a hundred minutes long and a lot of the story needs to be cut down due to time restraints and pacing for the film.
I enjoyed this Nicholas Sparks adaptation, SAFE HAVEN, a wonderful love story about a young woman with a tragic past. I rate it 6/10.