by Dan Jordan
Age certification: 12A
Written by: Leslie Bohem, Dana Stevens
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Cast: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
Romance is a beautiful thing. The intensity of emotion it creates clears out the heavy cobwebs of cynicism forming over your mind and opens you up to the beauty of human existence. This person you’ve found knows what you like, what you hate and can always tell what is on your mind from just the expression on your face. For a film based around this particular notion, Safe Haven becomes confused by the fact that, for such lavish emotions to arrive, you and your soul mate need to have personalities that the star crossed lovers depicted here are severely lacking.
Katie has accidently killed someone. After immediately fleeing the scene of the crime, making her neighbour an accomplice, disguising herself and fleeing the state as any sensible person in the same situation would do, she arrives in a nameless Atlanta town. There she strikes up a bond with the only man in town who is under the age of 40 who was widowed at an undisclosed time in his past. The two bond over their lack of personalities and soon fall in love. Their dull bliss is endangered by an obsessed police man who desperately seeks Katie’s arrest, employing all the requisite alcoholism and staring at computer screens expertise to bring her in.
Safe Haven is so safe, so tame, so timid and so placid there is no place for the murder storyline it is built around. It rockets so far past insipidness it is perverse. The attempt is made to show the simple majesty in the everyday world, but this is not the everyday world. It is so bland and artificial it never feels like anything can go wrong. Nothing bad does happen in fact, nor does anything good. At one point, the lovers actually discuss the weather.
The sheer laziness of Safe Haven is stunning. It’s goal to present a reality common to all fails resoundingly in that it tries to make the world do all the work for it. There is no attempt at a distinguishing writing style in an effort to portray conversations like regular people have every day and the camera work is so meandering it’s an effort not to get nauseous. There is a feel of improvisation to all the performances, as the actors desperately try and do anything with what little direction they’ve been given, reducing the romance to forced idle babble. The sheer lack of effort put into the ending is so insulting it makes the rest of the overlong two-hour run time a forced march through a purgatory of blank eyes, condescension and overall blandness.
In fact, Safe Haven is far from safe. It is a radioactive cesspool of pointlessness that must be avoided at all costs. Not taking your significant other to this film is such an insurmountable act of compassion that all moonlight strolls, expensive meals and marriage proposals will seem insincere by comparison.
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