'Safe Haven' Review: Nicholas Sparks's Latest Romance Ideal for Valentine's Day

A small North Carolina coastal town, two beautiful people finding love after personal struggles and lots of letters and surprising twists make up the Nicholas Sparks latest love story well suited for the silver screen.

Sparks has written 17 novels, seven of them turned into films which have brought in more than $650 million. Safe Haven, the eighth film adaptation in theaters today, will deservedly add to that tally.

Katie (Julianne Hough) arrives to small-town North Carolina, looking for fresh start after her painful past in Boston. She gets a job at the local restaurant and finds a quiet home to rent buried in the woods, hoping to stay away from the tight-knit community. Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widowed store owner with two children, tries to befriend Katie, but she shrugs him off, not wanting a relationship with anyone.

It’s not until Katie’s new friend in town Jo (Cobie Smulders), urges her to make friends with Alex that she returns his affections. In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, after a date on the beach, a romantic canoeing trip and lots of giggling and flirting, Katie and Alex fall for each other.

What’s unique about Safe Haven over other Sparks films is that it’s suspenseful and surprisingly thrilling. We see in an earlier scene that Katie is running from the law, but we don’t know the full details. The screenplay, co-written by Sparks, allows the audience to revisit Katie’s old life in Boston through the eyes of a police detective Kevin (David Lyons), who is trying to track her down.

Director Lasse Hallström (Dear John and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) certainly knows how to incorporate the beautiful scenery of North Carolina to benefit the story, and the cinematography of particular scenes is just breathtaking.

The last five minutes of the film are not to be given away, but the twist probably played better in the book. To the average viewer it will come off as cheesy, desperate and just plain strange. It’s so unnecessary that it affects the film for the worse and leaves a poor taste in your mouth when you leave the theater, even though the majority of the film is pleasantly romantic.

Safe Haven is thoroughly better than last year's The Lucky One but doesn’t hold up to other Sparks book-based films like The Notebook or A Walk to Remember. With a Valentine’s Day release date and the author's dedicated fan base, Safe Haven is sure to roll in massive dough at the box-office this weekend.


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