Safe Haven is a romantic thriller about an abused woman. Katie (Julianne Hough) is a damsel in distress who escaped Boston with the police pursuing her. Viewers are led to believe that she killed her abuser and is now afraid of the repercussions of her actions.
Katie ends up in the beach town of Southport, North Carolina, just as the summer season is starting. The town is the real star of the movie. It is shown as a town where beautiful women in sleeveless tops and short shorts live with tanned, muscular men in fit t-shirts.
She gets a job in a restaurant and rents a cottage in the woods. She meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with two children and owner of a grocery store. He falls for her and the romance between them develops slowly. This gives Detective Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) time to find Katie.
Safe Haven might have been better if it removed the violent plot and made it into a drama about a love affair between a woman wanting to forget her past and a young widower. Director Lasse Hailstrom has made several good films in the past, such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. But in Safe Haven, he does a poor job of combining romance with thriller.
Katie’s sense of comfort is signaled by the sweet music and slow shots of Spanish moss that are hanging from the branches of oak trees around the cottage. When there’s danger, the camera turns into a jittery handheld one and shows Tierney drinking vodka or threatening witnesses.
A good thriller keeps viewers guessing throughout the movie. Safe Haven just withholds basic information in order to prolong the suspense and deliver them to keep the audience awake when the romance is starting to be too tedious to watch.