Safe Haven (2013)

Directed by Lasse Hallström (1)

Cast: Josh Duhamel (2), Julianne Hough (3), and Cobie Smulders (4)

(Watch the trailer)

My favourite quotes – “Are you staying or you just passing through or what’s your story?”“Look Katie, the great thing is, life is full of second chances”, Listen to me, I’m in love with you. I’m in love with you. And if you stay I promise… there’s no safer place in the world than right here with me.”, Take a lot of pictures. You’ll only regret the ones that you didn’t take.”, & To the woman my husband loves. If you’re reading this, then it must be true. He loves you, beyond a shadow of a doubt or else he wouldn’t have given this to you. I can only hope that you feel the same way about him as he does about you. But I wanted to write this letter because I wanted you to know one very very important thing; I’m so glad he’s found you. I only wish I could be there some how to meet you, and maybe in some ways I am. (Inside the envelope is also a photo of Jo and Josh) Outside of my husband and my two beautiful children, you are the most important person in the world to me. Because I am gone and they’re yours now. You need to take care of them; make them laugh, hold them when they cry, stand up for them, and teach them wrong from right. The thought of you… it gives me hope; hope that Alex remembers what it feels like to be young and in love, hope that Josh finds somebody to fish with again, hope that Lexie has someone to help her on her wedding day. I hope that one day my family is whole again. But most of all hope that somehow I’m there with all of you, watching over all of you.”


Jo: Look I, I moved out here, same as you, I think, to get some peace and quiet. So I get it if you…
Katie: Yeah. I like the fact that I can hear myself think.
Jo: Yes. Thank you. I mean, isn’t it so nice to be away from all that noise and that chatter? I mean it can be a little deafening sometimes, so it is, it is nice to meet somebody as rustically inclined as I am. 
Katie: Okay.
Jo: Well it’s nice to meet you.
Katie: Yeah you too.

I am in between with regards to how I feel about the city and the countryside. I love hustle and bustle of the city. It fascinates me. It helps that cities are oftentimes very convenient and easy to get around in. Perfect for travelers who like to walk from point to point. But I also hate crowds. Especially crowds that are rude and like to shove you around on the trains. 

I remember vividly, a time long ago, on a holiday with my family in New Zealand. I was a teenager, and I was going through a rough patch, I can’t remember what about anymore. And for the first time on the trip, I had a room to myself. It was quiet. And tranquil. It was on the second floor and I was sitting at the bay window. Although it was chilly, I left the window open and I could feel the breeze and I could smell the ocean and taste the salty seawater even from where I was sitting. That kind of peace was a godsend. And just like that, I too fell in love with the quiet countryside. 

While I am not “rustically inclined” like Jo, I do enjoy the occasional escape into the peace and quiet of the countryside. Which explains why I really loved being in Santorini during the off peak winter season last year. And I think I’d want to have a bay window in my house, should I be able to afford a house in the future.

“Are you staying or you just passing through or what’s your story?”
– Alex 

Everyone has a story, a past. What’s yours? Littered throughout this blog, you’ve been privy to bits and pieces of my story and my character. So in some ways, this is a part journal, part review blog. When I watch an episode of my favourite television series I get transported into a new world, theirs. And I find meaning in their story. That is what I love about films and television series. That is what they’re for, to show us a new world full of different possibilities.

Katie: You just become dark… like there’s… the life is just sucked out of you. You just felt worthless. Like there’s no point. And I just stuck up for him all the time. Cause it wasn’t his fault, it was mine. Feel completely alone… 
Alex: It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re okay now.
Katie: I never really talked about.
Alex: Well I’m so glad you’re here.
Katie: I am too.
Alex: Everything’s gonna be okay.
Katie: Yeah.

With Safe Haven, the most recent adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ books, the topic of domestic abuse and starting over is the focal point of the story. When I realised that Julianne Hough’s character Katie (aka Erin in her old life) was being abused by her cop husband, it reminded me of the Flashpoint episode ‘Asking For Flowers’. Is it that cops are more prone to dishing out domestic violence? Or is it just a plot point to up the stakes for the abused women in the show?

“Look Katie, the great thing is, life is full of second chances”
– Jo

Katie ran away to escape her husband’s abusive ways. But it was also a chance to start afresh and to rebuild her life. Her second chance at living a full and happy life. It’s the same with Josh Duhamel’s Alex who lost his wife to cancer a few years back and has to raise his 2 young kids alone. So ultimately, it’s a story about 2 lost or damaged souls who find their way towards each other and a better life. Hmm… sounds like a couple of Nicholas Sparks adaptation. It’s a similar tale as found in The Lucky One, The Last Song, and Nights In Rodanthe.

Alex: I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… please just… just stay. 
Katie: No. You were right. I have to go. He’s gonna find me. He’s gonna find us. 
Alex: Whoa whoa whoa. Wait… Just tell me the truth, just tell me what happened. And if you’re in trouble we can get the police involved. I can talk to Ray.
Katie: You don’t understand Alex, he is the police. My husband’s a cop in Boston. That’s why he can do all that.
Alex: I don’t care aright. I’m not going to let him hurt you anymore. I’m not gonna let him hurt you anymore.
Katie: It doesn’t even matter. I can’t put you through that. I can’t put your family through that. He’s always gonna be there. He doesn’t quit.
Alex: Katie… Listen to me, I’m in love with you. I’m in love with you. And if you stay I promise… there’s no safer place in the world than right here with me. 
Katie: I’m so scared.
Alex: I know you are. But you don’t have to be. You don’t have to be scared… I love you… please stay.

But this is what gives us hope. Hope that no matter how damaged or lost we are, we can find that special someone who will keep us safe and will brave the storm with us. I want someone like that. Someone who will make me feel safe and loved. Someone I can depend on. 

Safe Haven brings up 2 serious topics – abuse and recovering from the loss of a loved one. It’s pretty cool the way Nicholas Sparks combines these 2 subjects through the characters of Katie and Alex. 

The only other show I’ve seen Julianne Hough in was the 2011 remake of Footloose. And I think she did a pretty descent job in Safe Haven as Katie. She was able to bring a certain depth to the character and I was with her throughout the whole film; through her fear, her apprehension, and gradually, her joy. 

With Josh Duhamel’s performance as Alex, it was nothing I haven’t seen before in his other films like Ramona And Beezus and Life As We Know It. He wasn’t bad. He just didn’t give me anything different from his previous performance which isn’t so much a reflection of his acting abilities but perhaps the kind of roles he plays. 

However, of all of his performances in romantic comedies or dramas, I enjoyed his take of Alex in Safe Haven the most.

When I was younger, I declared that if possible I’d like to die before my husband does. Why? Because I’m selfish and don’t want to live a lifetime alone without my partner. Maybe if I have children I’d find the strength to live on and not be a wreck. But now that I’m older, while I hope I am able to live on after my partner is gone, I hope if he does die before me, that he doesn’t leave me too soon.

Katie: Does it get better… with time? 
Alex: Yeah… Yeah… Yeah, at first I tried to avoid every place that we went together. I tried to forget. I tried to put it behind me. I tried to… just look forward. But it just didn’t work. And I realised that if I’m not thinking about her then who is. You know… and she didn’t deserve that; she was an amazing woman and I loved her, and I want my children to know that. I want them to know her. So… I just… we’re just keeping our heads down. Getting to play mum and dad, which is… interesting. Just trying to keep it all together really. But today with you, this is probably the first time that I’ve looked up.
Katie: It’s a perfect day.

Although it’s not the same, but after my breakups, I was like Alex, I avoided places we went to, and tried to forget every memory I have of him and when we were together. But that’s denial. And denial will only cause all the hurt and pain to suddenly come back and bite you in the butt. 

And just after a breakup, I recall telling my friends that I feel as if I will never find someone as good as he is again. But that isn’t always true. Yes, some people never find someone else as amazing as their one true love. But some do. And for some, the person that they meet next is even better than the person they were with before. Every person’s story is different. 


Katie: Hi….
Alex: There’s a letter here… to you.
Katie: Yeah?
Alex: Um-hm…
Katie: What is it?
(Alex passes her an envelope with the words ‘To Her’ on it)
Alex: I’ll be over with the kids.
Jo: To the woman my husband loves. If you’re reading this, then it must be true. He loves you, beyond a shadow of a doubt or else he wouldn’t have given this to you. I can only hope that you feel the same way about him as he does about you. But I wanted to write you a letter because I wanted you to know one very very important thing; I’m so glad he’s found you. I only wish I could be there some how to meet you, and maybe in some ways I am. (Inside the envelope is also a photo of Jo and Josh) Outside of my husband and my two beautiful children, you are the most important person in the world to me. Because I am gone and they’re yours now. You need to take care of them; make them laugh, hold them when they cry, stand up for them, and teach them wrong from right. The thought of you… it gives me hope; hope that Alex remembers what it feels like to be young and in love, hope that Josh finds somebody to fish with again, hope that Lexie has somebody there to help her on her wedding day. I hope that one day my family is whole again. But most of all, hope that somehow I’m there with all of you, watching over all of you.

I really love the scene above with Jo’s letter. It kind of reminds me of the film Stepmom

Isabel: You know, I never wanted to be a mom. Sharing it with you… that’s one thing. It’s another to be looking over my shoulder for the next twenty years, knowing someone else would have done it better… someone else would have done it right.
Jackie: What do I have that you don’t?
Isabel: You’re Mother Earth, incarnate.
Jackie: You’re… hip, and fresh.
Isabel: You ride with Anna.
Jackie: You’ll learn.
Isabel: You know every story, every wound, every memory. Their whole life’s happiness is wrapped up in you… every single second. Don’t you get it? Look down the road to her wedding. I’m in a room alone with her, fixing her veil, fluffing her dress, telling her no woman has ever looked so beautiful. And my fear is she’ll be thinking, “I wish my mom was here.”
Jackie: And mine is… she won’t. The thing is, they don’t have to choose. They can have us both. I have their past, you can have their future.

Although the circumstances are not exactly the same, it still rings a bell when I see this part of the film. This is also when the twist in the film is revealed. Well, perhaps you have guessed by now, the twist is that Jo is a ghost. This is the part that didn’t really sit well with me. The entire film is so real and believable. And it covers 2 very serious topics that deserve to be portrayed well. But this “twist” is a little out of place. However, without this “twist”, the huge chunk of the film wouldn’t work as well. So I’m still torn between liking and disliking this “twist”. 

But the gist of it is that Jo is looking out for her family and entrusting her family to Katie. Maybe this is her unfinished business, like Kat’s mum in Casper.

Josh: Why do you always have to take pictures?
Alex: I don’t know Josh, because I want to be able to remember this stuff that’s why.
Josh: Try to remember what’s out of the camera!
Alex: What do I do about Josh? He’s testing me. 
Katie: Do you think it’s just a phase?
Alex: I hope so.
Katie: Nah, I see the way he pushes your buttons.
Alex: Josh was young but he remembers her you know. Lexie remembers the idea of her. It’s… it’s just… there’s a difference you know.
Katie: You talked to him?
Alex: This point, I don’t really know what to say to him.

I recently cleared the mess on and under my office desk and I was looking at this film strip photo frame that I’ve got sitting on my desk. It’s less than half filled. Which is ironic cos I love to take photos. I guess I never got around to sorting out my MANY photos much less printing them out. Years ago, I got my mum a digital photo frame for her birthday. She still hasn’t used it. In fact, she can’t remember when she put it. I’m actually keen on getting one for myself to put on my desk in the office. 

Photographs are a reminder of where you’ve been and what you were doing and feeling at that exact moment. It helps trigger the brain to remember all that. While the camera cannot fully capture the pure joy or beauty of the moment, it can help you remember a fragment of it.

Jo: Promise me something Katie…
Katie: Yeah…!
Jo: …that you’ll take a lot of pictures. You’ll only regret the ones that you didn’t take.
Katie: Thank you. For being such a good friend.
Jo: You deserve this Katie. You belong here.

In fact, there are moments that I find myself saying “I wish I took a photo of that”. Which is what Jo means. To have no regrets, “take a lot of pictures” because “you’ll only regret the ones that you didn’t take”

I know of Cobie Smulders because of the television series How I Met Your Mother and recently, she also played a role in The Avengers. I really liked her subtle performance as Jo in Safe Haven. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work in the future. 


(1) Lasse Hallström has directed films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993), Chocolat (2000), Casanova (2005), Dear John (2010), and Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (2011). He also directed ABBA music videos like Mamma Mia (1975), Dancing Queen (1976), Knowing Me, Knowing You (1977), Take A Chance On Me (1978), and Super Trouper (1980).

(2) Josh Duhamel has acted in films like Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! (2004), Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009), The Romantics (2010), When In Rome (2010), Ramona And Beezus (2010), Life As We Know It (2010), Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011), New Year’s Eve (2010), and Movie 43 (2013). He also played the character of Danny McCoy in the television series Las Vegas (2003-2008).

(3) Julianne Hough has acted in films like Burlesque (2010), Footloose (2011), and Rock Of Ages (2012). She is known for being a dancer, trainer and choreographer in the reality television series Dancing With The Stars (2007-2012).

(4) Cobie Smulders currently plays the role of Robin Scherbatsky in the television series How I Met Your Mother (2005-present) and guest starred in shows like Tru Calling, Smallville, and The L Word. She has also acted in films like The Avengers (2012), The Delivery Man (2013), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). 

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks… Safe Haven covers a very important topic and has the potential to be an excellent Nicholas Sparks adaptation. However, despite the easy-to-love characters, the acting chops and chemistry between Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough are still not enough to make it an all-time favourite. Still, the film will give you hope. Hope that you are not going to be alone and unloved for the rest of your life. And to give you the courage to step out from the darkness and strive for something better. (2.8 of 5)


* Movie Poster from Wikipedia

Click here to follow Entitled To Opinion on Facebook

2 responses to “Safe Haven (2013)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s