‘Safe Haven,’ the latest Nicholas Sparks outing to be adapted for the silver screen, is a long-winded, schmaltzy tale of a young woman who seeks to forget her abusive past and tries to find a renewed sense of purpose and true love.
Erin (Julianne Hough) is a young woman on the run after she violently defends herself against her abusive husband. Avoiding the police, Erin hops a bus from Boston to Atlanta but, during a rest stop, finds herself drawn to stay in a sleepy little beachside hamlet in North Carolina. Taken in by the town’s quiet southern pace and waterside location, Erin decides to make a new home in the little community, assumes a new name (‘Katie’), and catches the eye of a young, widowed shopkeeper, Alex (Josh Duhamel). As Katie, Erin struggles to keep a low-profile on the rural edge of town. Nevertheless, she finds herself pulled toward Alex’s interest in her while remaining tortured by thoughts of her violent past and by fears of being found out. Eventually, the worlds of Erin and ‘Katie’ collide, and she must figure out how to survive and thrive as she tries to save herself from her past.
In essence, ‘Safe Haven’ is a melding of Julia Roberts’ ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ with any Lifetime movie of your choice. It is an overly long, drawn out attempt at romance with little plot line to fill in the gaps. Although Hough and Duhamel certainly, superficially, fill the bill for two romantic leads, neither relates much acting depth. The 115-minute film feels, at least, half an hour too long-- bloating its britches with extended glances between the two leads, repeated dreams and flashbacks, and long, country walks. Further, the predictable last half-hour of the film is packed with far too many events. The compacted excitement could have been much more engaging if it had been logically peppered throughout the picture. Without giving anything more away, ‘Safe Haven’s’ incredulous ending might have been more believable if Erin had sprouted wings and flown away rather than what the viewers were given.
‘Safe Haven’ might best be enjoyed on a rainy weekend when you stumble across it on television while you fold laundry, but it is far from the best way to treat your Valentine.
‘Safe Haven’ is rated PG-13 for thematic material involving threatening behavior and for violence and sexuality. It opens today across San Antonio and around the country.
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