A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Safe Haven (based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks) is a romantic, at times suspenseful drama that's heavy on cliches and formulaic plot twists and light on chemistry and inventiveness. While the romantic stuff is pretty tame for teens, save for one session in bed that reveals bare shoulders, the film does deal with heavy subjects such as death and spousal abuse. One character clearly has an alcohol problem (he's shown drinking while driving), which colors his decisions at work and at home. He also turns violent, resorting to guns and worse. There are also scenes with a destructive fire and a bloody knife, as well as some swearing ("s--t" is the worst of it).
What's the story?
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks -- author of The Notebook, The Last Song, and The Lucky One -- SAFE HAVEN finds a young woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) landing in a small North Carolina town, brought in a by a bus she boards under extreme duress. Her intent is to keep her distance from the locals, fashioning a spartan but content existence away from her past. But she can't help falling for Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with two adorable children who owns the local gas station and convenience store. She also befriends Jo (Cobie Smulders), an equally mysterious neighbor who encourages her to take risks and enjoy life. But Katie can't let herself get comfortable, not with the secret she's keeping that's threatening to upend her fragile, new life.
Is it any good?
By now, it's clear that Sparks has a fan base for whom a movie like this is especially formulated. You can pretty much predict the bits that are sure to appear: footage of gorgeous sunsets, a mysterious stranger pulling into town, a gallant man drawn to a gentle woman, a secret that tears them apart, an obstacle that, really, isn't much of one. Yes, it's all here.
Director Lasse Hallström knows how to paint with light; his canvas is strewn with vibrant hues (except for when he's denoting an evil presence, in which case scenes are drained of color, of course, because, well, evil). But all of the pretty cinematography and dark undertones can't save Safe Haven from its sickly-sweet core. We're all for heartfelt romance, but audiences deserve for them to be much smarter than this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Safe Haven portrays relationships. Parents, talk to your kids about the signs of unhealthy (and even abusive) relationships.
Is this a typical damsel-in-distress movie? If so, in which way? If not, how?
Discuss Katie's decision in the beginning of the movie: Did she have any other recourse?
- In theaters: February 14, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2013
- Cast: Cobie Smulders, Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough
- Director: Lasse Hallstrom
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving threatening behavior, and for violence and sexuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.