Safe Haven (2013) is the newest addition to Nicholas Sparks’ empire and it is exactly the shot in the arm that he needed. To date, eight of his novels have been turned into feature films, the most notable one being The Notebook (2004), which was released just shy of ten years ago. The Notebook really is the film that made Sparks more than just a romance author. The characters and story line transcend gender, age, and cultural boundaries. Additionally, the translation to screen is flawless, rendering the movie relevant and poignant. It instantly became a classic. The Notebook set the bar quite high and since then, all subsequent films released have not measured up, leading one to wonder whether Sparks’ best days are behind him.
Safe Haven reminds fans to have faith and patience. Not only is it a great adaptation, but the film works well as its own entity and can be enjoyed whether or not one is familiar with the novel. In fact, it may be best to see the film first. Though this logic is opposite of traditional practices, the film is very suspenseful and has multiple twists and turns that will leave audiences on the edge of their seats. Knowing what is going to happen takes some of the fun out of viewing it. The book, though it has a major reveal at the end, is not as shocking.
In a way, Sparks' films between The Notebook and Safe Haven almost felt as though they were trying too hard to convey powerful love and people who are or become upstanding citizens. However, in Safe Haven, as in The Notebook, the actors effortlessly give their characters pure souls that are capable and strong. As a result, Katie’s (Julianne Hough) and Alex’s (Josh Duhamel) relationship does not feel forced, but natural. David Lyons also gives an impeccable, terrifying performance as Tierney. Consequently, Safe Haven meets expectations and reinforces Sparks’ credibility.