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Safe Haven

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel star in a scene from the movie "Safe Haven."
Somehow it just wouldn't be Valentine's Day without a gooey adaptation of a tale by Catholic novelist Nicholas Sparks, the current master of the romantic drama.

This year, it's "Safe Haven" (Relativity), Lasse Hallstrom's screen version of Sparks' 2010 novel of the same title. Hallstrom is a veteran of the genre, having directed the Sparks-based "Dear John" in 2010.

This latest cinematic confection, however, has a morally dubious core that will leave ethically conscientious audience members with an unpleasant aftertaste.

All of the requisite Sparks elements are present here: an attractive couple, a tear-jerking love story, a pair of adorable kids, and a beautiful setting along the North Carolina coast. There's also a hint of mystery and a menacing backstory reminiscent of the 1991 Julia Roberts weepie, "Sleeping with the Enemy."

Katie (Julianne Hough) steps off the bus in the seaside town of Southport and decides to stay. She's been running from something sinister but is now determined to make a fresh start in a decidedly Rockwellian place with friendly people and family values to spare. So she gets a job, buys a cabin in the woods, and paints it yellow, a "happy color."

She heeds the wisdom of her new neighbor, Jo (Cobie Smulders), who proclaims, "Life is full of second chances."

Once Katie lets down her defenses and learns to trust others, her life is full of Alex (Josh Duhamel), a lonely widower who runs Southport's general store. Katie warms to him and his two moppets and, before long, the music swells, the sun sets in glorious reds and oranges, oysters are consumed, slow dances are lingered over—and love blossoms.

Not so fast, as Katie's past begins to catch up with her, threatening the safe haven she has found. The gun-toting Kevin (David Lyons) arrives on the scene, having doggedly pursued Katie for some time.

Delving into the details would constitute a spoiler. Suffice it to say that Kevin's appearance is not only bad news for Katie and Alex, but for viewers committed to Judeo-Christian values as well.

The film contains brief violence, an ambiguous attitude toward marital fidelity, nongraphic adulterous sexual activity with fleeting partial nudity and a few instances each of profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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