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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 22, 2013

Safe Haven Movie Review: Senti Movie For Hopeless Romantics

IF YOU’RE not an ardent Nicholas Sparks fan, you can skip “Safe Haven”, released as a Valentine presentation here and in the U.S. But if you enjoyed his past works that were made into film (“The Notebook”, “Message in a Bottle”, “Nights at Rodanthe”, “The Vow”, “Dear John”, “Walk to Remember”, “The Last Song”), then we have no doubt you’d enjoy it. Some of the elements in these movies reappear in “Safe Haven”, notably that bit about the abusive husband who becomes the villain in “The Lucky One” which starred Zac Efron.

The movie starts with a woman (Julianne Hough, “Rock of Ages”) fleeing from a cop who’s pursuing her. She was able to elude him and got on a bus going to Atlanta. At a pit stop in the small town of Southport at the coast of North Carolina, she leaves the bus and stays there. We learn her name is Katie and she finds work in a local restaurant.

She catches the attention of Alex (Josh Duhamel), a young widower with two kids who owns the convenience store in the town. His wife died of cancer some years ago and his son continues to sulk about it. Katie resists Alex at first, but is eventually won over by his kind gestures. He even gave her a bike so she doesn’t have to take long walks to get home to the decrepit old house she’s renting in the woods.

She’s also befriended by a nosey neighbour, Jo (Cobie Smulders), who will provide a jolting twist at film’s end. Meantime, we keep on guessing why the Boston cop, Tierney (David Lyons), is so obsessed in apprehending Katie for alleged first degree murder. When he finally tracks her down, this results into a fiery and violent climax that endangers the life of Alex’ young daughter, Lexie (Mimi Kirkland). The guy’s real identity provides yet another twist in the story, reminiscent of “Sleeping with the Enemy”.

The movie is helmed by Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom whose past films got Oscar nominations: “My Life as a Dog”, “The Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat”. Before “Safe Haven”, he got to direct his first Sparks movie in “Dear John” (2010) starring Channing Tatum. He knows there’s a market for this kind of schmaltzy romances almost always set in a beautiful seaside town offering some awesome scenery and aiming to tug at mainly the female audience’s heartstrings.

The film’s material maybe sappy but Hough (two-time champion of “Dancing with the Stars”) and Duhamel as the lead characters are certainly both very photogenic and good to look at on the big screen even if they don’t have that much chemistry together. Lyons delivers the more solid performance as the determined cop. If you don’t go for sentimental love stories, skip this one. But if you enjoy this kind of romantic vehicle, by all means don’t miss it.