Nicholas Sparks has become a cinematic institution on to himself, with the likes of The Notebook, The Last Song and The Lucky One all becoming box office hits based on his hugely popular novels and the very attractive people in the adaptations. This trend continues with Safe Haven, with the very attractive Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel starrer sitting pretty near the top of the US Box Office.
Safe Haven kicks off with Katie (Rock Of Ages' Hough) running from her home, blood stained knife in hand. A quick dye-job later and she's hopping on a bus, narrowly avoiding being caught by the police. Eventually, the bus stops to refuel in a sleepy fishing village. Katie then decides that this is the place to rebuild her life. It's not long before she's deflecting the flirtations from local shop owner (Duhamel) and attempts at friendship by her new neighbour (How I Met Your Mother's Cobie Smulders). But the warmth and friendliness of her surroundings eventually bring her defences down, just in time for her murky past to arrive in town looking for her.
The will-they-won't-they courtship of Hough and Duhamel is played out fantastically well, with a general sense of swooniness in the air, and the couple have some real chemistry. Unfortunately, once they do get together, the best part of the movie is over, with just the "What is she running from?" question left to answer. This storyline is, sadly, both very predictable and features the worst acting this movie has to offer, courtesy of David Lyons who plays the police officer hunting down Katie.
There's a lot to this movie you just kind of have to go with; Katie moves into the scariest, creakiest cabin in the woods where no-one would ever hear her call for help. Nobody seems to own a mobile phone and kids don't seem to go to school… There's also a last minute twist-ending that is so despicably, laughably bad that it almost undoes all the good that has gone before it.
Director Lasse Hallstrom has some experience with Sparks' adaptations (Dear John), so he handles the romantic parts of the movie quite well, and the whole endeavour looks warm and inviting, perfect for a brainless Sunday afternoon. If you're a big softy at heart, go ahead and add another star to the above score. But if you're feeling particularly cynical, then avoid at all costs.