Besides the setting of the Carolinas, there’s always a certain tragic theme in between the romance of Nicholas Sparks’ books and film adaptations. In A Walk to Remember (2002), it was leukemia; in The Notebook (2004), it was Alzheimer’s; in Dear John (2010), it was the Iraq War. In this February’s Safe Haven, the tragedy is a bit less depressing and more suspenseful (a first for an author whose stories usually rely on angst and drama for effect).
Katie (Julianne Hough) is on the run from a cop (David Lyons) who is convinced she’s behind a murder. She makes her way to a small North Carolina town. There she meets and befriends a shop owner named Alex (Josh Duhamel) and his kids (Noah Lomax and Mimi Kirkland). Right when Katie and Alex begin to have feelings for each other, the policeman discovers where she is.
Cobie Smulders co-stars in director Lasse Hallström’s second Sparks adaptation (he also directed Dear John). While previous films like John and The Notebook paired up future movie stars like Ryan Gosling with Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum with Amanda Seyfried, Safe Haven features two leads that lack the star appeal and chemistry to carry the film. Couple that with a slow first act and an ending that is the definition of saccharine and Safe Haven seems a step below its predecessors.