Safe Haven (film)

Safe Haven is a 2013 American romantic drama fantasy thriller film starring Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders. The film marks the final film role for actor Red West. It was released theatrically in North America on February 14, 2013. The film was directed by Lasse Hallström, and is an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' 2010 novel of the same name. The film was originally set for a February 8 release.[4]

Safe Haven
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onSafe Haven
by Nicholas Sparks
Music byDeborah Lurie[1]
CinematographyTerry Stacey
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Distributed byRelativity Media
Release date
  • February 14, 2013 (2013-02-14)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million[3]
Box office$97.6 million[3]


Erin, terrified, flees her house in Boston, having been in the possession of a bloody knife. After taking shelter with a neighbor, she goes to the bus station to flee town. Her hair is now cropped and bleached and she stops in the small town of Southport, North Carolina.

She introduces herself as Katie at the general store. After getting a job as a waitress, and renting a small house on the edge of town, she befriends her neighbor, Jo. She meets Alex Wheatley who operates the local general store, a widowed father of two young children, Josh, who has a strained relationship with him, and Lexie. Alex soon gives Katie a bicycle so she won't have to walk long distances across town. Initially she over-reacts negatively to the kind gesture, not wishing to "owe anything to anyone".

It is not long before Katie and Alex start a relationship, and she becomes a mother figure to Josh and Lexie. Meanwhile, Kevin Tierney, a Boston police detective, prepares wanted posters for a woman named "Erin" which describes that she is wanted for first-degree murder. Alex sees the wanted poster in the police station, noticing the picture bears a striking resemblance to Katie. He confronts her, causing a huge fight - she attempts to explain that she was young and stupid and married a man who only hurt her - but they break up, and Katie moves out.

As Katie is about to leave town Alex intercepts her, saying he has fallen in love with her, begging her not to leave and promising to keep her safe. Katie reluctantly returns his love, and decides to stay in Southport (though still apprehensive of bringing danger upon Alex's family). She tells him that she fled there to escape her abusive and alcoholic cop husband. They got in a big fight and that she stabbed him in self-defense before she fled south in a panic, in hopes of finally escaping him and his abuse.

Meanwhile, Kevin is suspended for creating the false wanted posters -for crimes that weren't committed- whereupon it is revealed that he is Katie's (Erin's) abusive, alcoholic husband, still very much alive and well. Enraged, he breaks into Katie's former neighbor's home in Boston and gets the phone number to the restaurant where Katie works. Arriving in time for the town's Fourth of July parade, a severely intoxicated Kevin sees Katie kissing Alex, which enrages him. That evening, Katie has a dream that she is standing on the docks watching the fireworks when Jo comes up and tells Katie that "he" is here. Katie wakes up in the convenience store next to a sleeping Lexie when Kevin suddenly appears, confronts her, demanding that she go back with him. She refuses and tells him to leave. Kevin pulls a gun and pours gasoline all over the store, with the intent to burn it down.

Katie buys time by faking sympathy for him and agreeing to return home with him. When he lets his guard down, she pushes him into the water. A firework spark lands on the gasoline, igniting a fire that engulfs the store. Alex sees the burning store, quickly crosses the harbor by boat, and saves Lexie. Meanwhile, as Katie tries to fight off Kevin, the gun goes off and kills Kevin.

After the fire, Alex recovers several letters written by his late wife Carly before she died. They were prepared ahead of time for memorable events such as Josh's eighteenth birthday and Lexie's wedding day. Alex gives Katie a letter with the words "To Her" on the envelope. It explains that Alex must be in love to have given her the letter and she hopes that she feels the same, wishing that she could be there with them. Enclosed with the letter is a photo of Alex's late wife. Katie realizes that her neighbor "Jo" was the ghost of Carly watching over them.


  • Julianne Hough as Erin Tierney/Katie Feldman, A young woman who flees her abusive husband and Alex's new girlfriend.
  • Josh Duhamel as Alex Wheatley, Katie's new boyfriend and a widower who struggles to raise his two kids after the death of his wife.
  • Cobie Smulders as Carly/Jo, a local woman who befriends Katie
  • David Lyons as Detective Kevin Tierney, Katie's abusive husband.
  • Mimi Kirkland as Lexie Wheatley, Daughter of Alex and who befriended Katie
  • Noah Lomax as Josh Wheatley, Son of Alex who has a rough and strained relationship with his father due to his mother's death.
  • Irene Ziegler as Mrs. Feldman
  • Robin Mullins as Maddie
  • Red West as Roger. This was West's last film role before his death in July 2017
  • Juan Carlos Piedrahita as Detective Ramirez
  • Cullen Moss as Deputy Bass
  • Mike Pniewski as Lieutenant Robinson


According to a 2012 Twitch Film article, Keira Knightley had entered into "early talks" to play Katie,[5] but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with the 2013 film Begin Again.[6]

The film began principal photography on June 18, 2012 in Wilmington and Southport, North Carolina.[7] Parts of it were filmed in Louisiana and the opening scene with Katie on the Coach America bus is on the Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain in Linville, North Carolina.


Box office

Safe Haven grossed US$71,349,120 in North America and US$26,245,020 in other territories for a worldwide total of US$97,594,140.[3]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed US$21,401,594, finishing third at the box office behind A Good Day to Die Hard (US$24,834,845) and Identity Thief (US$23,674,295).[3]

Critical response

Critical reaction for Safe Haven was largely negative.[8][9][10][11] On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 13%, based on reviews from 146 critics, with an average rating of 4.00/10. The consensus reads, "Schmaltzy, predictable, and melodramatic, Safe Haven also suffers from a ludicrous plot twist, making for a particularly ignominious Nicholas Sparks adaptation."[12] On Metacritic the film has a score of 34 out of 100, a "generally unfavorable" score, based on 33 reviews.[13] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+.[14]

Richard Roeper called the film "Bat. Bleep. Crazy." and asks if the filmmakers or a key character is out of her mind. Roeper expresses disbelief at the twist ending, and "how insane the whole thing is". Aside from the twist ending he would have given the film 2.5 stars, but ultimately gives it only 1.5 out of four stars.[15] Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, called Safe Haven's setting "a sugary vision of small-town America that does not correspond with the real world at any point."[16] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film zero stars out of four, and concluded his review by stating: "I hate Safe Haven. It's a terrible thing to do to your Valentine."[17]


The film was nominated for a Teen Choice Awards in the category Choice Movie: Romance.[18] Mimi Kirkland received a Young Artist Award nomination in the category "Best Supporting Young Actress in a Feature Film".[19]

Home media

Safe Haven was released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 7, 2013.


  1. "Deborah Lurie to Score Lasse Hallstrom's 'Safe Haven'".
  2. "SAFE HAVEN (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
  3. "Safe Haven (2013)". February 14, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  4. "'Turkeys' Gets Date, 'Safe Haven' Shifts". Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  5. Jagernauth, Kevin (March 15, 2012). "Keira Knightley May Take 'Safe Haven' In Nicholas Sparks Adaptation From Lasse Hallstrom". IndieWire. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  6. "The roles these actors & actresses *nearly* played". Glamour. May 23, 2017. Archived from the original on April 3, 2018.
  7. "Nicholas Sparks movie 'Safe Haven' starts shooting in Wilmington". Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  8. "Episode #127 – Safe Haven", "The Flop House", 1 June 2013, Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  9. Sharkey, Betsy. "Review: 'Safe Haven' can't find refuge from a cheesy story", "LA Times", 13 February 2013. Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  10. Holden, Stephen. "Her Date Is a Single Dad; His, a Possible Killer", "New York Times", 13 February 2013. Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  11. Anderson,Melissa. "Safe Haven: Unable to Ignite", 13 February 2013. Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  12. "Safe Haven". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  13. "Safe Haven Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  14. "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search".
  15. Roeper, Richard. "Safe Haven", 12 February 2013. Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  16. Bradshaw, Peter. "Safe Haven – review", "The Guardian", 28 February 2013, Retrieved on 29 November 2014.
  17. Travers, Peter (February 14, 2013). "Safe Haven". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  18. "Complete list of Teen Choice 2013 Awards winners". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. August 11, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  19. "35th Annual Young Artist Awards". Young Artist Awards. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
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