Summary: A woman runs away from a dangerous situation and settles down in a small town. There she meets a handsome convenience store owner and father of two, and they fall in love with a lot of loooooong looks and sloooooow sex. Then her past catches up with her in the last few minutes and is quickly resolved.
Verdict: YAAAAAWN. The main twist was easy to spot, none of the “peril” felt actually dangerous, and all the romantic scenes felt forced and clichéd. There was one twist that A didn’t expect, but that was only because she has never seen any other Nicholas Sparks movie or read any of his books.
Full Recap: Safe Haven begins with a young brunette woman running away from a house in her bare feet while carrying a small plastic bag. She goes to an old lady’s house first, then to a bus station. There, an Evil Cop is following close behind. He stops several buses but manages to miss the one that has the girl on it. We know he is evil because he’s chasing the protagonist.
This scene is supposed to be tense, we guess? Except we know that our main character is not going to be caught by the cops 10 minutes into the film, so it’s just boring. This trend continues, so brace yourselves.
As she rides on the bus, country music plays, so we assume she’s going to end up somewhere in the South. Lo and behold, she stops in a small town in North Carolina where she wanders into a convenience store run by Josh Duhamel, buys something, and then decides to stay. She then gets a job, moves into a house that looks like it’s right out of Cabin in the Woods, has a nightmare, and loses a shoe to shoddy floorboards before we find out that her name is Katie.
The first time we hear Katie speak more than three words, she’s asking for some paint so she can paint her death cabin. Paint becomes an oddly important topic of conversation in this movie. Josh Duhamel, aka Alex, comes out and magically remembers Katie from her single trip to the convenience store from before. He quickly starts flirting.
At this point, we still know nothing about Katie other than that she has a dark past. We are presuming that she was involved in some sort of domestic violence situation, but that is all we know. We know even less about Alex; we don’t even know who this little girl running his store is. Yet we are supposed to sense some immediate, powerful connection between her and Alex.
News flash, movie, this is almost impossible to do without actually having some character development. Neither of them have any, so the movie so far is like children playing with dolls. There is no backstory or personality; the boy doll and the girl doll like each other just because.
While the dolls continue to go through the motions of flirting, a grouchy old man walks by and makes fun of Alex’s flirting after Katie leaves. He basically provides color commentary occasionally throughout the film, which makes him the best character.
Later, we find out more about Alex. He has two kids, a boy named Josh and a girl named Lexie, and his wife died of cancer not too long ago. Surprisingly, Alex does not talk about his wife to anyone except his children, even after he starts dating Katie, and never mentions her name. This is very strange but necessary because the movie must preserve the “surprise” of the final twist.
We also meet Jo (Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame), Katie’s next door neighbor who apparently lives in the general vicinity of Katie’s murder cabin, but definitely far enough away that no one could hear her scream. Jo seems like a nice sort, if overly friendly for someone who professes her love of “getting away from people.”
This exposition is interspersed with short scenes of the Evil Cop apparently knocking on doors all along the eastern seaboard.
After the audience has been knocked unconscious by the sheer amount of exposition, Alex and Katie continue having tepid conversations and weak attempts at flirting over paint. Then grizzled old man makes another appearance to inform Alex that they don’t stock paint, which is really weird because they clearly had paint swatches at the ready. Just to show customers what they couldn’t have, apparently.
After the paint arrives, yet ANOTHER montage begins, this one of Katie’s life before arriving in the town, including a flashback to her dropping a bloody knife and running past what appears to be a dead body on the floor.
Katie naturally wakes up from this dream terrified, checks the locks on the door, and then goes back to sleep. The next morning, she finds a new bike outside her house. Turns out, Alex came in the middle of the night to drop this bike off for her because midnight bike drops are quite common in North Carolina.
You read that right, dear readers. He came in the middle of the night. When it was dark outside and she’s in a creepy cabin alone in the middle of the woods. And rather than knock like a normal person, he just creeped outside her door and left her a present.
Katie is, we think, understandably upset. Not necessarily because of the bike itself, but because of the manner in which it was given to her. She subsequently stumbles through trying to explain to Alex why she doesn’t want to accept this gift. He responds with snark, and then she storms off, leaving the bike at the store.
Later, at the murder cabin, Jo tells Katie that she overreacted because this is just what people in the South do. A has lived in the South most of her life, and while people are generally very nice, they do not creep outside your house in the middle of the night to leave you presents.
Because this is a romance between human beings with no defining traits other than enjoying paint conversations, Katie later feels bad for yelling at Alex, so she apologizes.
Then the movie cuts back to Evil Cop, who has magically figured out that Katie changed her hair before leaving town, so he edits the wanted picture and adds “First Degree Murder” as the crime. We also get more evidence that Evil Cop is evil because he says that it’s not his job to make sure people are guilty; just arrest ’em all and let the DA sort ’em out.
The wanted poster eventually makes it to where Katie lives. However, the police chief, who frequents the diner where Katie works, puts the poster up on the board and never notices the obvious resemblance between the wanted murderer and the only new resident in a town of like, 3,000.
Instead, we get a long, protracted scene of Katie, Alex, and the kids going off to the beach. Katie is wearing the skimpiest bikini possible around the kids because that’s what you do when you want to attract a single father.
After some more flirting and so-called “chemistry,” Alex takes Katie home, and she invites him in to see her new yellow floorboards. Because remember, so far as we can tell they have bonded only over paint. This naturally leads to some more boring scenes of them bonding over stabbed flounders and their shared love of canoes until they are thoroughly in love.
There’s also some more old guy scenes, where he greets Alex with the same look we were making through the whole move:
Returning from his date with Katie, Alex immediately goes upstairs to stare at letters that his dead wife wrote to their kids for special days of their lives that she knew she was going to miss. This becomes important later, but for now it’s just more boring.
Then we’re back with Evil Cop, who goes into Katie’s old house where there is still blood on the floor. He casually walks around and then falls asleep in a chair. It’s at this point we’re supposed to feel that something is wrong with the cop, but the movie has not been subtle about the whole “Evil Cop is Evil” thing so we feel nothing but more boredom.
We also discover that Katie has been led to this town by a desire to land “somewhere safe.” However, her desire can’t be that strong since she calls some old lady and leaves a message. She doesn’t say where she is, but she also doesn’t bother to travel to a different area code to place the call. She has the common sense of a lemming, and this is her undoing because Evil Cop immediately goes to the old lady’s house.
Meanwhile, Alex and Katie have sex. Slow, boring, interminable sex.
Finally, FINALLY we reach the climax of the film; Alex is at the local police station and sees Katie’s wanted poster. We can only conclude that the police should hire him because he’s clearly the only observant one in this town. Demonstrating this fact, Alex pulls the wanted poster off the board and just walks out with it.
He confronts Katie, whose real name is Erin, about being wanted for first degree murder. Katie tries to explain that she was in a bad relationship, and she had to run away. Alex is not listening because he’s freaking out that he let a potential murderer around his kids.
He storms off, but obviously not to tell the cops that the murderer they’re looking for is in town. He stares into space, Katie goes home and packs her things, and Jo tries to convince her to stay, but Katie is rightly determined to leave. After all, she could be arrested by the cops at any moment if Alex decides to warn them.
But don’t worry! Alex realizes that Katie can’t be a murderer because he LOVES her. (No one EVER loves a murder! That’s what makes them so easy to spot among the general population!) So, naturally, he runs to stop her from leaving, and they have a heartfelt talk. Alex promises to keep her safe, which causes Katie to change her mind and stay.
Meanwhile, Evil Cop gets called into his boss’s office and lectured for putting up a fake warrant for his wife, Katie, who ran away after he beat her. Then the boss realizes that Evil Cop is carrying vodka around in a water bottle; he’s an alcoholic AND a wife beater!We are still puzzled as to how the hell they could get “first degree murder” up there on a poster without anyone noticing for this long. First degree murder has a lot more legal requirements than “there was some blood, and this chick ran away without shoes.”
Predictably, Evil Cop finds out where Katie is from the message Katie left on the old lady’s machine. Then he drives down the highway, at night, while drinking vodka straight from the bottle because, again, he’s evil.
Meanwhile, things are going well with Katie and Alex. The kids are happy, Alex is understanding of Katie’s past, and they’re going to go to a Fourth of July party. Life is good…until the Evil Cop shows up to ask Lexie if she’s seen Katie. Lexie, being smart as well as adorable, says that she doesn’t know Katie with the best poker face on a kid ever. Evil Cop apparently believes her.
Later, Katie and Lexie are alone at Alex’s house. Katie dozes off and Jo comes to her in her dreams to warn her that Evil Cop is in the house. Then she wakes up, and Evil Cop tries to convince her to come back “home.” He leaves when Katie refuses, only to start dumping gasoline all around the house.
Katie’s brilliant idea to protect the child is to put her in the highest part of the house with only one viable exit.
Katie then tries to call Alex instead of dialing 911. When he doesn’t answer, Katie tells Evil Cop that she will leave with him after all in order to get him to put out the lighter. The plan works, but the house gets lit on fire anyway. Alex sees the smoke, comes back, and rescues Lexie from the POWERFULLY stupid place Katie has put her. Meanwhile, Katie is struggling with Evil Cop, which ends when she shoots him with his own gun.
Thus ends Evil Cop.
At this point, our movie appears to be entirely over, but NO, Nicholas Sparks has one more “twist” in store for us. It turns out that Jo is actually the ghost of Alex’s dead wife. The movie was so boring up to this point that the fact that A didn’t see this coming made her way more excited than it should have.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t nearly make up for the almost 2 hours of boring we sat through. So, like the ghost of Jo, we are floating the hell out of here.