Romantic story turns silly

Safe Haven (M)

Hoyts Belconnen and Woden, Limelight Tuggeranong & Greater Union Manuka



My second favourite thing to do, after judging people, is judging movies. When I saw that Safe Haven was from a Nicholas Sparks book I rolled my eyes and passed judgment. Trite, I though. The Last Song trite. Nights in Rodanthe trite.

Then I saw Safe Haven was directed by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, of My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules fame and I forced myself to swallow that sagacity and give it the benefit of the doubt.


Mistake. This romantic thriller owes a debt to Sleeping with the Enemy, a guilty pleasure, and just when it started to suck me in with the whole Nicholas Sparks-ness of it, with a couple overcoming a dark secret to be together, it ruined it by throwing in a little bit of unnecessary magic realism.

The girl with the dark past is Katie (Julianne Hough), a cute but reserved blonde who shows up in the sleepy North Carolina town of Southport. Immediately charmed by her is widower Alex (Josh Duhamel) who has his job cut out for him breaking through her reserve. Katie confides in her neighbour Jo (Cobie Smulders) and begins to get on well with Alex's kids Josh (Noah Lomax) and Lexie (Mimi Kirkland). Just when she begins to feel safe, of course her past catches up with her.

Until the hokum of the hocus-pocus ending, Safe Haven was a perfectly fine movie of the week, with a photogenic cast and location and a decent budget.

Duhamel is good, a solid leading man, and Hough is perfectly fine. They make a sweet cookie-cutter couple for a Valentine's Day movie.

Aussie actor David Lyons does a fine acting job in an appalling paint-by-numbers bad guy role. As the abusive man from Katie's past, his character is pure pantomime. Sweat stains around his armpits, bloodshot eyes, drinking in public, his every scene is laugh-out-loud funny, which is obviously not the intent.

Hallstrom may be slumming it but having a director of this calibre gives a sense of invention and movement to some predictable plotting. He certainly knows how to get his producers to splash out on dolly and crane shots, and while the result is a beautiful-looking film, it has a certain amnesiac quality to it - meaning I'll have forgotten everything about it by tomorrow.

Until it got silly, though, it was perfectly charming. Girls who loved how much Edward loved Bella will love this.