‘Safe Haven’ is safe bet for romance movie lovers

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“Safe Haven” is a blend of romance, mystery and suspense that starts with a whirlwind of dramatic scenes that lead Katie, played by Julianne Hough (Footloose), to the sleepy town of Southport, N.C.

This film was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who is known for directing such films as “Chocolat” and “Dear John.”  “Safe Haven” is an adaptation of a book written by Nicholas Sparks.

Sparks has written several books which have turned into box office hits including “Dear John,” “The Notebook” and “Message in a Bottle.” Many of his novels turned films feature romance with a side of tragedy. “Safe Haven” has that and more.

While the opening credits roll, there are a series of intense clips showing Katie with a knife while a man lies on the floor, her running to her neighbor’s house and then fleeing to a bus station where she is almost stopped by the police.

Hough does a good job staying true to her character and how a woman in her situation may behave. While her character is difficult to connect with you have to keep in mind that she is a woman running from her past and is somewhat closed off to the people around her.

The movie suddenly switches gears from suspense to a much softer love story theme. With the quick-fire opening of the movie, it seemed a little slow moving, almost boring. However, it becomes clear why the other characters and the town are introduced in this way as the movie progresses.

When Katie gets off the bus she meets Alex, played by Josh Duhamel (Transformers), for the first time. He is a sweet widow with two young children who runs the general store conveniently located where the bus stops. She also meets her distant neighbor, Jo, played by Cobie Smulders, when she catches her peeking through her windows. Katie eventually, almost reluctantly, builds a friendship with her.

Duhamel is easy to love in this movie. His character’s small town charm and realistic struggles with his kids make his character one you can’t help but root for from start to finish.

Katie and Alex soon form a connection and start spending time together in typical love story fashion. They spend a day at the beach with his children and the pair go canoeing and get caught in the rain.

While the romance is blossoming, there are occasional reminders that Katie is a wanted woman with an alcoholic police officer hot on her trail. It is a reminder that you just don’t know what it is she was trying to escape.

The end of the movie brings to light the past that Katie is running from. Again, the suspense picks up as the police officer hunting Katie finds her during a 4th of July celebration.

Throw in a couple of plot twists at the end of the movie and wrap it up with a heartwarming bow as Alex professes his love to Katie in a very unique way which leaves the viewer with a nicely packaged alternative to many romance movies.

This movie will inspire tears, make you grip your armrest and have you occasionally wondering just where the story is headed. It offers something to all viewers, male and female. If you are looking for a good date movie, this just may be it.

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