From the writer Nicholas Sparks, also known for “THE NOTEBOOK” and “NIGHTS IN RODANTHE”, “SAFE HAVEN” is the newest of his books to be adapted for the silver screen. Typically, it seems his movies receive scathing reviews from critics, but generally are loved by the film-going audience.The opening scenes of the film have a long haired brunette Julianne Hough (best known from her years on Dancing with the Stars) dashing out of a house in the rain, and making her way to a neighboring house where an elderly lady takes her in to help her. A short time later, a short haired blonde rushes to the bus station, buys a ticket, and makes good her escape, in spite of being pursued by police officers tracking her moves through the station, even boarding buses to check them before they depart in their desperate attempt to apprehend the criminal fugitive.
After a long overnight bus ride, the bus stops in the small seaside town of Southport, North Carolina for a short break and upon looking around, she decides to stay here for a while, and gets a job as a waitress, then rents a bungalow far from town in a secluded area. The quaintness of the seaside community and the friendliness of the residents strikes her as a welcoming change from the life she fled.She wants to do some touch-ups so she goes to the small local shop for some food, supplies, and orders some paint. The shopkeeper is Alex, played by Josh Duhamel, and he is getting over the loss of his wife after losing her to cancer, along with his two small children, Lexi and Josh. The lonely widower finds himself attracted to the blonde newcomer to town, but because of her traumatic departure from her past, she keeps her guard up, not wanting to trust anyone. She comes home from work to find a woman nosily peering in her windows, but learns that she is her neighbor, Jo, who also enjoys the seclusion the area offers. Jo encourages her to slowly open up and trust Alex as he offers her a fixed-up bicycle so she doesn’t have to walk and carry her groceries and supplies so far.
As Katie begins to open up and becomes enamored with Alex and his children, slowly becoming a new mother figure, the detective who had pursued her relentlessly as she was making her escape, uses his resources as a police officer to issue a nationwide APB for her identifying her as being wanted for suspected murder. As Katie begins to settle into her new life and opens up her heart to the love and affections of Alex and his family, her past begins to catch up with her and threatens to destroy everything.
The film storyline is peppered with domestic abuse, alcoholism, loss and recovery, abuse of authority, and has a surprise ending twist that Sparks’ stories are known for. While there have been some criticisms of Hough and Duhamel’s acting as well as of the directing of the movie, I found it enjoyable and a relaxing love story with just enough plot twists to keep it interesting without a bunch of computer generated graphics and stupid car chase scenes or shoot-em up gun chases that are so pervasive in almost every movie made these days. It was nice to see just a good old fashioned love story with a happy ending for a change.
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