Review: Safe Haven

Lasse Hallström's (Dear John, Chocolat) latest romantic melodrama, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven, receives its UK release in coming weeks. Fans and critics of prior Sparks adaptations will have a rough idea of what to expect with Safe Haven sticking to a similar structure as The Lucky One and Dear John.

Opening with the mysterious Katie (Julianne Hough) on the run after a fight with her abusive husband, Safe Haven sees the broken young woman finally settle in a quiet North Carolina town. Katie soon finds solace with widowed store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel), however, Katie's past demons return to haunt her.

Hallström's direction and Terry Stacey's cinematography capture the picturesque, idyllic nature of Southport establishing it as a perfect dreamlike safe haven - allowing the film to boast some quaint imagery. However for the most part Hallström seems to be on a nauseatingly cute autopilot, so much so that everything about Safe Haven feels superficial and uninspired. Every possible setback one could face in life (death of a loved one, threatening diseases, abuse) are used to push the manipulative melodramatic agenda of Safe Haven, resulting in a superficial and tiring watch.

Safe Haven sticks to the traditional narrative that fans of romantic dramas will be particularly accustomed to. We open with the troubled outsider arriving a new location, they are soon shown kindness by a handsome/pretty stranger with the pair gradually forming a romantic bond. This is followed by a test which challenges this relationship and then an eventual rekindling. Whilst this structure will not phase genre fans, others may be left somewhat cynical.

One element of Safe Haven that deviates from that formula, comes in the conclusion which is either laughable/heartbreaking depending on your emotional perspective. All that I'll say is that I was disheartened that it ruined the elaborate lesbian subtext that I had been trying to craft throughout the film.

Whilst Josh Duhamel tries to inject some life and passion into the role of Alex, the character proves so tired and generic to truly convince. Julianne Hough fares less well, with the actress lacking the charisma and depth to lead a solid, convincing romantic role.

Fans of the romantic drama will find a lot to enjoy here. Safe Haven is a safe, moderately entertaining watch, however it lacks the sense of realism and depth that a solid melodrama needs. It's essentially like eating a cake made entirely of icing - sweet but lacking anything truly satisfying.


Safe Haven hits UK cinemas on the 1st of March 2013.
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