Safe Haven | Movie review
Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel enjoy a sojourn in Sparksville.
Safe Haven is largely set in Southport, North Carolina, but the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation really takes place in Sparksville, a picturesque, coastal place where the sun seems forever rising or setting, the cotton dresses cling flatteringly, amour-enhancing thunderstorms roll in at just the right moment, and there’s usually an American flag waving in the background. Dancing with the Stars vet Julianne Hough plays Katie, a young woman lamming it from Boston under mysterious circumstances the film explains piece by piece. When she steps off the bus and into Sparksville—catching the eye of Alex (Josh Duhamel), a handsome young widower—Katie decides to stay a spell, hoping her past won’t find her.
Naturally, it does, but not before love blossoms. The leisurely pace with which director Lasse Hallström (helming his second Sparks adaptation, following Dear John) brings the leads together is the film’s best quality. The attractive backdrops even make it easy to overlook that neither Duhamel nor, especially, Hough has the gravity to sell a romance rooted in tragedy and strife. But any charm evaporates when the third-act dramatics start piling up. A must-be-seen-to-be-believed final twist redefines the word shameless, even by Sparksville standards.