Safe Haven is based on a romance novel written by Nicholas Sparks. It is the second time director Lasse Hallstrom takes the helm of a Sparks movie adaptation, the first being Dear John. Safe Haven starts with a scared young woman Katie (Julianne Hough) hopping on a bus and ending up in the seaside town of Southport, North Carolina. She wants a fresh start to escape her dark past.
At the general store, she meets a young widower Alex (Josh Duhamel) and helps her pick out paint for her rented cottage. She hasn’t started her part-time waitressing job at the local seafood restaurant and yet she manages to pay for the paint.
Katie gets comfortable in her new environment and learns to accept Alex’s generosity. She also bonds with Alex’s daughter but his son is still grieving the death of his mother due to cancer. Katie is encouraged by her neighbor Jo with her budding relationship with Alex. She advises her to take a lot of pictures.
And just when Katie is enjoying her new life, a detective from her hometown is tracking her down. He goes through security videos and interviewing neighbors to find her present location. Flashbacks reveal Katie’s story. She is an abused wife and defended herself from her violent husband with a kitchen knife.
The real star of Safe Haven is Southport and its wondrous beach. Katie goes on beach trips and canoe rides. Katie and Alex fall in love and they share long, slow, wet kisses. Their faces show they are in love with each other and nothing can stop their relationship.
But that is not the case as they both have to face their pasts. Secrets are reveals and leads Alex to say that Katie doesn’t need to be scared anymore because he loves her. It is a Nicholas Sparks moment, just as when fireworks fly to celebrate Fourth of July.