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Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Dana Stevens, Leslie Bohem, Nicholas Sparks
Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, Irene Ziegler, David Lyons, Juan Piedrahita, Red West, Noah Lomax, Mimi Kirkland, Robin Mullins
Synopsis: 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.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality
Sometimes you know it when you find it
Like most of Nicholas Sparks' movies, we have a fairly generic love story about a couple falling in love. However, this one presents a girl that has a mysterious past that could come back to haunt her. What could this mystery be? Did she murder someone? Is she some sort of thief? Is she on the run from an abusive boyfriend or whatever? I can't really say, as that would be spoiling it for most readers.
However, all readers need to know is that the story revolves around a girl calling herself, Katie (Julianne Hough), whom seeks refuge in a small town, to escape her past. At first, Katie merely wants to be left alone; while forming emotional attachments to nobody. However, all that changes when she meets a widower by the name of Alex (Josh Duhamel), who's seems a bit reluctant to move on since his wife's death. But when he meets Katie, it seems like love at first sight for him, as he instantly tries to impress her. Heck, he even gives her a bike as a present, when word gets out that she moves into the neighborhood.
Reluctant to accept the gift at first, Katie inevitably accepts the bike due to some advice from her new neighbor, Jo (Cobie Smulders). Throughout most of the movie, It's never revealed why Jo would even care that Katie and Alex would be together, but we do find out why at the end, but I'll get to that in moment. Eventually like most of Nicholas Sparks' formulaic romantic stories, it doesn't take long for these two fall madly in love with each other, and finding out how they actually might need each other as well.
Although the romance between our two main characters is a bit cliched to say the least, I will give the film some credit that at least it feels somewhat genuine in conveying the emotions of these protagonists. The movie not only gives the viewer reasons why these two would even fall in love with each other, but it also provides a strong mystery element regarding Katie's past that keeps the viewers' interest throughout the film. For most of the movie, it seems like a solid mystery romantic drama.
Sure, it's still cliched and predictable. Yes, the film does seem a bit silly at times, and the dialogue is nothing if not extremely predictable. Hell, most of the damn movie plays out like a picture perfect fan fiction love story that most girls would fantasize about. Of course, lets not forget about the other cliched elements in this movie.
You have Alex's sweet little daughter that soon comes to love Katie like the mother she's never had (Or one that she can remember, as she was way too young to remember her real mother), and you have his son, who still remembers his mom; which causes him to reject Katie at first. But like all stereotypical Hollywood films, we all know that it's only a matter of time before the young man starts to like her too. Don't you just wish real life could be this easy?
Granted, the film was silly for the most part, but I honestly enjoyed most of it. In fact, I was going to give this movie a solid two and a half out of four. Saying how it may not be the best love story out there, but it was worth checking out. But, that all changed when I saw the ending of this movie.
Yes, the ending of this film was so freaking horrible that I found myself asking, "Why the hell would they do something stupid like this?" They had a fairly decent romantic drama that featured elements of a mystery thriller to make it unique, and then they throw a bulls*** plot twist at us in the last few minutes of the damn movie? Do they think we're that freaking stupid to fall for such nonsense? For those yearning to see this movie, I would kindly advise you to stop reading, or skip to the last paragraph of this review, as this next part will contain major spoilers.
At the end, Alex hands a letter to Katie, from his deceased wife. Apparently, his wife wrote a bunch of letters for Alex and his family, to read during critical moments in their lives; long before her death. The letter is addressed to the woman that Alex chooses to be with, after her death. Well, Katie opens it, and it turns out that Alex's ex-wife is none other than Jo herself. Meaning, Katie has been talking to a dead person the whole time; which would explain why we never see Jo interact with anyone other than Katie. I'm sorry, but that has to be the biggest nonsensical crap I've ever seen in a movie. Take in mind, I've seen a lot of dumb films too, but this really takes the cake.
First of all, if you're going to do some sort of supernatural plot twist bulls***, then at least have the common decency to establish that the cinematic world your creating has supernatural elements beforehand. In "Sixth Sense" for example, Shymalan established in the movie early on that the world he was creating had supernatural elements in it; which helped the plot twist at the end seem even more cleverly written, and a bit more believable to buy into.
Whereas "Safe Haven", we're led to believe that the world this movie tries to create is grounded in reality, where no supernatural elements are even hinted at. Sure, I know some fans of the book may argue this point, but take in mind, we're not talking about the book. Maybe in the novel it's explained and set up better, but in this movie alone, it's not set up particularly well. If anything, having this nonsensical plot twist involving a ghost is not only stupid, but it's kind of insulting to the viewer watching it.
If you're going to establish a plot twist that has supernatural elements mixed into it, then you need to establish early, in your film, these elements exist for it to make any sense. This movie fails to do that; which completely kills off whatever good points that "Safe Haven" had going for it.
I know some of my readers might criticize me saying how I gave "Amour" such a great review; even though it technically did the same thing. And, you're right that it did, but there's a key difference between "Amour" and "Safe Haven." In "Amour", the supernatural element isn't used as a plot twist, nor is it presented to emotionally shock any of it's viewers. If anything, the scene was played very subtly, and it was used beautifully to convey how even after death, that love would continue lasting forever. None of the living characters ever see their spirits walking away together, but instead we're treated to arguably a very subtle and heartfelt scene.
Whereas "Safe Haven", it's not only used as a plot twist, but all it does is make you wonder if that means Katie is completely insane in this film. To make matters worse, it just makes what was already a cheesy romantic love story into something of a joke by the end. Not only does the ending make absolutely no sense in terms of how the rest of the story flows, but it completely destroys the entire movie.
Granted, I do love the cinematography and settings of this story, as it was very beautiful to look at. Plus, the actors were pretty good in this film as well, as you can definitely see they put a lot of effort into their roles. Sadly, like the "Twilight" films, this is just another love story that fails to live up to it's potential. Maybe in the book, it's explained better, but in this movie, it's nonsensical garbage at best.
Overall, I'd have to give this movie a one and a half out of four. It's silly and stupid. Unless your a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks' novels and/or movies based on his work, then I'd avoid this one at all cost.