Safe Haven 愛情避風港 (2013) – USA
Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 27th February 2013
Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Hong Kong Box Office Takings: HK$1,381,320
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I have never been Nicolas Sparks biggest fan, as apart from “Notebook”, everything else seems more like carbon copies with the same old routine formula. Still, despite lingering around the cliché and predictable storyline, “Safe Haven” manages to impress by being engaging, filled with a romantic couple that the audience can feel for and along with some wonderful scenery in the background to boot. I wouldn’t go on to say that “Safe Haven” is a tearjerker like Notebook, but it manages to touch and engage the audience when it counts. For romantic dramas, it really doesn’t matter how outrageous the scenario or love may seem to be, as it is really how the director, writer and actors manage to pull it off that counts. “Safe Haven” delivers on that front and does so by taking the audience along the way.
Country singer Julianne Hough delivers an intense and mysterious performance that did just enough to leave the audience thinking. There is no question that Hough can act and in films like these performances can easily turn cheesy or even corny. Luckily, Hough manages to strike up a restrained performance and not go down to the easy route of overacting especially in the face of a slightly ridiculous plot line, the result is providing an affecting display in some of the film’s crucial moments. Although, Josh Duhamel (from the “Transformer” series”) is far from a Ryan Gosling, he shows just enough presence to make his tormented character believable. What made “Safe Haven” works and other Sparks’s films like “The Lucky One” fails, is that the audience can feel that both characters are flawed and came together at a time when both really needed each other. This makes it far more easier for the audience to relate to the situation and be engaged in the preceding, despite an at times predictable storyline. I also thought that Cobie Smulders who plays the late wife (“spoilers alert”) provides excellent support in a rather corny role.
All in all, “Safe Haven” may not be “Notebook” and nor does it needs to be. It is safe to say that it is far more convincing that the awful “The Lucky One” and the film possesses far better all-round performances. When the characters are convincing and the audience can relate towards, it goes a long way in making the film works and at times it is able to disguise an otherwise routine plot line. Director Lasse Hallström who previously helmed the highly underrated “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, does a fine job in making use of the beautiful country and forest life and handles the meetings between the two leads with just the right level of awkwardness. “Safe Haven” simply works because it is a type of film that is aimed at a targeted audience and Hallström managed to engage the audience to root for the characters and engulf them with romantic sentiments. Still, “Safe Haven” may not be much, but it is easily romantic and as for a day like Valentine Day, it may just be enough. (Neo 2013)
I rated it 6.5/10