Julian Hough radiates and Josh Duhamel, who has a dreamlike quality, light up the screen. Hough (Katie) redeems herself after her tepid performance in Rock of Ages and her hoofing as a regular on Dancing with the Stars. Maybe it is time for her to pack it in and focus on her acting which is stellar. This story is based on the novel by Nicolas Sparks who also produced it. Another good film made by its creator who would not relinquish control of his creation. Safe Haven captivates and keeps you guessing thanks to clever editing and a well-written screenplay by Leslie Boehm and Dana Stevens. Suspense builds. Intrigue is a given. Safe Haven is about a lonely widower who finds love with a mysterious woman hiding from her past. It balances the serenity of love with impending danger always coming at you. Director Lasse Hallstram has a gift to build conflict seamlessly.
Tenderness is part of this love story though the finale packs a wallop. The sleepy town of Southport in North Carolina offers a picturesque backdrop and soothes when evil rears its ugly head. Alex is a store owner who has two small children and grieves the loss of his beloved wife to cancer. Katie is on the run from an abusive husband, a policeman, played by a sinister David Lyon, who will not stop chasing her across the Eastern seaboard until he finds her and controls her. This film is also about the smothering, deadly power of control in relationships and the grace which comes with releasing it.
Alex' played by Josh Duhanel has two children, Josh and Lexie, who are played with great charm and sincerity by Noah Lomax and Mimie Kirkland. While Katie has found a secluded cabin in the woods, a plainspoken single neighbor, Jo, (Colbie Smulders) appears out of nowhere and offers friendship. Jo is matchmaker to Alex and Katie who is deeply wounded by her previous relationship and unwilling to respond to Alex's advances. With the required mystery, Jo plays her part and does not give away the O'Henry ending. Another theme of this film is haunting. With Jo's emphatic and stubborn support Katie realizes she must choose between a life of isolation or relinquish control of this fear, this secret, and allow herself to love another man.
Safe Haven is a real Valentine treat for couples and for singles longing for intimacy because while watching this film, one realizes how healing and soothing a relationship can be.