Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel. Mystery/romance. Written by Leslie Bohem, Dana Stevens from a novel by Nicolas Sparks. Directed by Lasse Hallström.
FILM SYNOPSIS: A young woman seemingly on the run from the law for murder lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her. Her crazed and abusive husband wants her back. And if he can’t have her, then no one will.
PREVIEW REVIEW: It’s a movie in search of a genre. At times it wants to be a gentle romantic comedy, then it wants to be a scary thriller with a nutcase attempting to kill his runaway wife, and to top it off, there’s a touch of The Sixth Sense’s “I see dead people.” Not that it’s poorly done. Indeed, there were those at the screening who enjoyed it. I fear being labeled a chauvinist, but mostly the ladies liked it, which is a warning to the menfolk, when your lady asks you to take her to it, beware: Chick Flick.
It takes a skillful touch when intermingling different genres. Here, the great Lasse Hallström (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, An Unfinished Life, Chocolat) seems almost heavy-handed, as if he were doing the film for the WE cable network.
For years, Nicholas Sparks has written lightweight adaptations of centuries-old love themes. Attempting to balance melodrama with reality in his novels, he incorporates the many sides of the human experience. In nearly all of his stories, there’s love, hate, fear, frustration, and death – almost always a death. And usually with Nicolas Sparks, we get a touch of faith somewhere within the production. Sadly, that’s the one ingredient left out in this stew of a movie, unless you count the appearance of an ethereal spirit in human disguise as a form of theological significance.
More troublesome is the fact that the renown author fails to intervene when an actor or screenwriter adds profanity to the screen versions of his novels. Here, Christ’s name is taken in vain twice and God’s name followed by a curse once. Ah, Nick, you have such an opportunity to witness your faith on the set by making the filmmakers understand your grievance with irreverence to God.
Last year, I asked Mr. Sparks and producer Denise DeNovi, both weekly church-goers, why the expression “God ---“ was in a film adaptation of his book The Lucky One. Their answer: “We do struggle with these issues, and we don't put them in a film just to put them in there. If it's in there, it's there for a reason. We want to see their humanity. The average person does speak that way, and it does point out the character of the person who does the profaning. We did have some takes where the actor didn't use that expression, but the take was chosen where we felt the performance was better.”
I let them know that some of my readers were taking a stand against films that profaned God’s name. Evidently my argument that their audience would be larger without the blasphemy was not lasting enough to persuade the filmmakers from abstaining in the next venture.
To be somewhat fair and balanced, I thought the performances were fully realized, the locations beautiful, (why aren’t we all living by the sea?), and… well, that’s as balanced as I can get. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not memorable.
I’m offering up DVD alternatives that in my opinion better represent the genres exploited in Safe Haven. I wanted to suggest The Sixth Sense as one of them, but it also contains offensive language.
DVD Alternatives: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1946) is a gothic romance without promiscuity, starring Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney and George Sanders. The serene love affair is difficult to resist. It contains, you should excuse the expression, a “haunting” score by Bernard Herrmann. The DVD contains two insightful and interesting commentary tracks, along with other bonuses.
Unconditional (2012): A touching, sensitive, well-constructed drama, Unconditional was a welcomed surprise. Writer/director Brent McCorkle did a fine job with the technical aspects, despite his low budget. He managed to organize a competent team of behind-the-camera folk and was wise to cast Lynn Collins in the lead role. She plays a widow whose whole life was wrapped around her soulmate, but comes to learn that we are not here just to be an attachment to another person, realizing she has purpose and that she isn’t really alone. Those who seek to reverence God and acknowledge Christ are never, ever alone. (PG-13)
Some Came Running. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine star in this dramatic adaptation of James Jones novel about ex-soldier who returns to home town, disillusioned with life. Entire cast gives topnotch performances. Superb score by Elmer Bernstein. For mature viewing.