.: all photos getty :.
I'm going to go first person on this post, if you don't mind...
If God in Heaven above does indeed give us gifts, I have no doubt He gave author Nicholas Sparks the gift of being able to reach into our spirit -- into our very souls in fact -- and squeeze that part of our being which makes us feel.
He's done it with the iconic masterpiece THE NOTEBOOK. And tonight, after seeing SAFE HAVEN, the movie based on his novel by the same name, I can say to you that he's done it again.
The movie brings the pages of Spark's book to life... and, given the powerful performances of Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough - and the equally as evil, yet powerful performance of David Lyons... this movie really tackled some mature, even ugly realities of life in relationships... with a beautiful plotline... and a spectacular twist which makes it connect with the heart.
Now, I'm not going to compare it to the Notebook. And you shouldn't either. One does not compare a Degas painting to that of a Monet. Rather, realize going in that this movie is based on the work of a master artisan at the craft of telling love stories... in a way which captivates and, yes, even teaches us something about the idea of love and relationships along the way.
As you know, no relationship is ever perfect... The relationship with leads Hough's character to a beautiful coastal North Carolina small town clearly is not. It's wrought with some very mature problems... problems which manifest themselves in the brilliantly evil and dark performance so masterfully played by Lyons. I'll not delve into what those demons are - but they're among the darkest you can have in humanity... cloaked in something which, well, we're taught as children to trust implicitly.
As an aside - this movie also solidifys Southport, North Carolina's place as one of the most tranquil and beautiful places in America, and a must-add to your road trip or vacation destination bucketlist.
Mr. Rodgers - of the PBS show we watched as kids once said, "when a problem comes, look for the helpers." In this case. The "helper" is the last thing you want to come along if you're Hough, whose character, leaves after an incident you can read about in almost any newspaper or see about on TV.
She runs. And she finds herself in this sleepy small Southern town where she goes to begin again... and the last thing she wants to do is to be found by really anyone.
It turns out she makes a new friend who guides her along in an almost motherly way... into the arms of Duhamel, who has his own issues... he's a widower raising a daughter who never knew her mom and a son who doesn't want to forget his mom, who passed away.
The love story blossoms as one would expect it to. Boy meets girl. Girl resists boy, but ultimately listens to her heart...
... and then the Sparks romantic twist shows up. And the way it does really underscores the evil - yes - evil... and dark lengths Lyons character will go to find Hough.
When I say evil... I mean dark, hauntingly evil... Lyons must have at times felt almost dirty playing this part... he played it so well and it drives just enough suspense to keep you riveted...
In North Carolina several months ago, I met Sparks on the set of the movie. I - with some other of my colleagues - had dinner with him in the same small town based on the small town you'll see in the movie. Sparks explained to us that to write a romance, you have to have that love - which faces impossible odds - at times, forbidden odds, which overcomes.
In Safe Haven, it does.
Duhamel and Hough shine... and really reveal their depth as artists in this movie. The supporting cast - albeit not the biggest names in entertainment - rise to the occasion and deliver a romantic tale which teaches us lessons about our own humanity, overcoming tremendous personal odds, and ultimately about the healing power of love itself. Duhamel's on-screen kids really help to drive this home in a childlike way... again, a nod to Sparks' mastery with the pen.
Yep. That Sparks can write a romance novel. And this cast - led by Duhamel and Hough - didn't dissapoint...
... at least they didn't dissapoint me. I don't think they will dissapoint you.
Thanks for reading.
PS: Once, I thought Duhamel's best role was the role he played as a NEST team member in the TRANSFORMERS movies - and that Hough's best role was in Harry Potter or in Burlesque or as a Country singer... We're way past that now... this movie really shows how much they really, truly are capable of as actors.