If you were to liken Lasse Hallström’s latest offering to a meal in a restaurant, you would find that there are plenty of courses ready for serving. Although mainly set around the coast, the fish are not from Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) and the drinks don’t come with Cider House Rules (1999). So what is on the menu?
So we are off to a spicy start as we meet our main protagonist. She is a girl on the run in a tense, dramatic opening – a central character whose name and background you know nothing of. Is she a criminal or a misguided escapee? The premise is deliberately obscure and the action intense. Following a shocking chase through the city, with glimpses of violence and knives, our lead (Julianne Hough) takes a bus to the sleepy town of Southport and becomes ‘Katie’, in order to start a new life. She knows the cops are after her. But dreams – or are they recollections? – of a traumatic past invade her consciousness.
The Main Course
Katie sets up residence in the forest, in an isolated cabin away from the central part of the costal town, and finds herself a job. Her new home needs some renovation, so she orders some paint from the local store. It’s a friendly place and the locals are all very willing to help her settle in, especially store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel), his two kids and Katie’s neighbour, who also apparently lives in the woods. Katie wisely keeps herself to herself, which is unsurprising as the officer in charge of her case seems to be relentless in his pursuit. But she slowly begins a reluctant relationship with Alex, whose wife died recently. The film develops its premise surprisingly well – we want to like Katie, but we know she is on the run. She is clearly wanted by the police and we are concerned about her forming friendships, especially with the children, as we still do not understand her past. A well executed dish with rounded flavours.
Inevitably we learn the reason for Katie’s flight and the police pursuit and by this time we are looking towards a dessert that packs a zesty punch, with an underlying sweetness in the resolution that ties everything together.
But wait! Just as you reach for that tissue to wipe away an emerging tear, the plot twists into a fromagerie of cheesiness beyond your wildest cheesy dreams. Camembert, Stilton, Roquefort, Pont l’Evêque? It’s all there.
Safe Haven is like a smorgasbord of genres – its opening act has hints of an action cop drama but it quickly transforms into a family based romance that is inherently nice, but with an underlying sense of mystery as to Katie’s background and motivation. It is a film that has much to praise it; it’s a well acted character led romantic drama that doesn’t fall into the realm of gratuitous schmaltzy commercialism… until the very end. Sadly, the disappointing conclusion results in irritatingly contrived nonsense rather than what was – up until that point – a convincing modern romance.
So, ultimately, Safe Haven is a mixed supper. The ingredients of cast and chef would lead you to believe that it could deliver delicious cuisine but, although this is a generally satisfying meal with multiple flavours and aromas, unfortunately the cheese board will leave you with indigestion.