New Release Review - Safe Haven

Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons, Red West

A woman flees a crime scene and attempts to start over in a small coastal town.

Katie (Hough) flees her home, leaving a bloodied body behind her. Seeking refuge with a neighbor, she changes her hair from long and brunette to short and blond before heading to the nearest bus station. There she evades Detective Tierney (Lyons) and takes a bus to the small town of Southport, an idyllic community on the North Carolina coast. In Southport, Katie takes a job at a diner and befriends general store owner Alex, a widowed father of two. She plans to make a fresh start, (and we know this because the tin of paint she purchases just happens to be labelled 'Fresh Start'). Despite her initial reservations, Katie's relationship with Alex takes a romantic turn. When Alex sees her face on a wanted poster in the local police station he confronts her, leaving Katie a choice to make on how to live with her secret.
'Safe Haven' is the latest big-screen adaptation of a novel by that literary force of nature, Nicholas Sparks, an author who I imagine woos females with the pick-up line "Hello, I'm Nicholas Sparks". His books, and the resulting films, ('The Notebook', 'Dear John', 'The Lucky One' etc), usually follow a similar template involving a mysterious leading male character and a smitten female who helps him confront his demons. With 'Safe Haven', he turns this idea on his head, positioning Katie as the troubled lead running from her past. For most of the film, the story plays like 'The Fugitive' meets 'Dawson's Creek'. Then things take a bizarre twist. Spoilers to follow...
I usually attempt my best to avoid spoilers but there's really no way to discuss this film without analyzing its two major, and completely ludicrous, plot twists. Throughout the first half of the film we see Detective Tierney harass the elderly neighbor who helped Katie escape. He even shows her a photo of Katie for identification purposes. Then, in the third act, it's revealed that Tierney is none other than Katie's abusive husband whom she stabbed when he attacked her in a drunken rage. This makes absolutely no sense for two reasons. Firstly, we now know he lives across the street from the elderly lady and so obviously knows she would know who his wife is. Why didn't he just ask her "have you seen my wife?". Secondly, at the beginning of the movie we saw him chasing Katie through a bus station with no evidence of a knife wound in his side. As if that wasn't enough, we get the double whammy of a final plot twist which has to go down as the "WTF?" moment of the year. Throughout the film, we see Katie befriend Jo (Smulders), a straight-talkin' Southern girl who encourages Katie's interest in Alex. Well, it turns out Jo is actually no less than the ghost of Alex's dead wife. Had this been a horror movie I would have probably seen that one coming but I never expected a Nicholas Sparks movie to enter 'Sixth Sense' territory. 
If you fancy some unintentional laughs, 'Safe Haven' is a gold-mine, one of the most bizarre films you'll see all year.
4/10
Safe Haven (2013) on IMDb N/A/10



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