‘Safe Haven’ proves less romance, more suspense

Ipsa Chaudhary

I have seen my fair share of romance movies, particularly ones adapted from novels by Nicholas Sparks. So when I saw the preview for Safe Haven, I was intrigued. But unlike Sparks’ past novels, Safe Haven starts off as a suspense instead of the typical woozy romance. Having read many a Sparks novel, I expected a movie of the caliber of The Notebook or The Last Song. But Safe Haven proved to be much more than the typical romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even really call it a romance.
Katie (Julianne Hough, Rock of Ages) flees her abusive husband and finds herself in a small town on the coast of North Carolina. She rents a cabin deep in the woods far from the town’s center so she can hide from the world and begin a new life. This small seaside town is where she meets a widowed Alex (Josh Duhamel, Transformers) and his two children.
But before long, Katie’s alcoholic husband, also a cop, sends out wanted fliers of Katie, labeling her as a murderer in order to track her down. Just as Alex and Katie begin to hit it off, Alex’s discovery of the wanted flier puts their relationship in jeopardy.

Image used under fair use doctrine
Image used under fair use doctrine
However, while the suspense kept me on my toes throughout the movie, the romantic aspect of the movie fell flat. The constant switch from romance to suspense in the movie made it difficult to empathize with the characters, especially when compared to Sparks’ previous film The Notebook. Most of the romantic scenes in Safe Haven remained exactly that — romantic scenes. They were mere interludes between the suspenseful parts of the movie.
The casting was also an issue. Where Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling brought passion to The Notebook, Hough and Duhamel had little chemistry. Duhamel played the goofy, sensitive widower, so it’s hard to say whether it was his acting or the character itself that fell short. And the same goes for Hough, who played the reserved newcomer in town with a hidden past. But, I can say that they lacked chemistry and were not as convincing as I would expect for a couple in a Nicholas Sparks novel. If anything, Alex’s endearing daughter, Lexie (Mimi Kirkland), brought the most spunk to the movie. She notices the blossoming romance between her father and Katie and encourages it.
Overall, Safe Haven made for a good watch, but not a good romance. The suspenseful parts of the movie made it interesting and gave it the plot twist needed to keep the audience interested in the film. But then it branched off from the romance too much for it to qualify as a romance. And mostly, it lacked the passion that I expect from most Nicholas Sparks movies.
By Ipsa Chaudhary