Safe Haven
dir Lasse Hallstrom
scr Leslie Bohem, Dana Stevens
prd Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ryan Kavanaugh
with Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, David Lyons, Mimi Kirkland, Noah Lomax, Robin Mullins, Ric Reitz, Mike Pniewski, Cullen Moss, George Dawe, Jasper Grey
release US 14.Feb.13, UK 1.Mar.13
13/US 1h55
Safe Haven
My what strong, safe arms he has: Hough and Duhamel

smulders lyons halstrom
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Safe Haven Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, this film is so fully set in Sparks World that we know the trajectory of the entire plot after the opening scene. Which helps us brace ourselves for the overwrought climax and flood of sentimentality we know is on the way.

Katie (Hough) is on the run, cutting and lightening her hair and boarding a bus out of Boston. When it stops in an idyllic North Carolina coastal town, she spots hunky shopkeeper Alex (Duhamel) and decides this is where she should hide from her horrific past. The perfect man, Alex is handy around the house and a loving single dad to bright Lexie (Kirkland) and thoughtful Josh (Lomax). With some prodding from a new neighbour (Smulders), Katie opens herself to the idea of falling for Alex. Meanwhile, tenacious Boston cop Kevin (Lyons) is hunting her down.

We know Kevin is evil from the start, because he is always accompanied by both menacing music and a bottle of vodka. Which kind of reveals exactly what is happening and where this is heading. Although the plot takes a surprising, somewhat maudlin turn that's cunningly devised to reduce certain audience members to blubbering wrecks. Everyone else will snort with disbelief even as they battle the full on manipulative onslaught of the requisite Happiest Ending Ever.

As with most events in Sparks World, terrifying accidents and deep tragedies only result in furrowed brows for a few scenes before everything is sunny again. OK, maybe one child remains haunted by memories of a happier past, but the heroic man is there to help the youngsters and any imperilled women make it through whatever the author throws at them.

Fortunately, Halstrom makes the film look beautiful, capturing the stunning landscapes with the kind of warm, vivid camerawork that boosts tourism. And the camera-friendly actors make the most of their thinly written roles, wrenching comedy, romance, aching sadness and bucketloads of hope without anything in the script to back it up. In fact, the most shocking thing about this film is the amount of money the filmmakers spent making it without bothering with coherent characters or plotlines. But then, audiences who go for this sort of thing will adore it.

cert 12 themes, violence 14.Jan.13

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