Safe Haven

Allison Kennedy, Christine LaPuma, and Brittany Dudley

Similarities and Differences in Characters:

Throughout the film there are several evident discrepancies relating to the characters of the book and the film.

  • In the book Alex is a father who has grey hair, however the movie reveals that Alex has brown hair
  • In the book Erin/Katie dies her hair from blonde to brown to conceal her identity, however in the movie Erin dies her hair from brown to blonde
  • Additionally, Alex's daughter is named Kristen in the book, but it is changed in the movie to Lexi
  • Erin/Katie's character within the novel is reluctant to opening up, trusting, and falling in love with Alex. It is evident that her character within the novel is emotionally scarred from her brutal and abusive marriage. While in the film Katie is still traumatized from the horror of her violent husband, the gravity of these effects are not as prevalent. Within the movie Katie/Erin is more open to starting a relationship with Alex than she is in the novel.
  • Lastly, the aggressive actions and disposition of Kevin, Katie/Erin's husband are intensified more in the novel compared to the book. While the movie still gives a glimpse of his abrasive nature, the book goes more into depth depicting his fits of rage and terror, and establishes him as more of a detestable character throughout the book.

Similarities/Differences in Plot:

While the majority of the movie follows the same storyline of the book, the director Lasse Hallstrom changed a few aspects and scenes of the book.

  • The first plot discrepancy between the movie and book, takes place within the first couple of minutes within the movie. The movie shows Erin/Katie escaping her abusive husband in hurry, depicting her flee as a spur of the moment action, however within the book we know that Katie is a practical woman and intricately plans out her escape from her violent and alcoholic husband. By depicting her escape in this manner, the movie takes away the intelligence, courage and depth of Katie's character, portraying her as afraid, weak, and naive while she is anything but. This difference in plot undermines the character of Katie.
  • The second difference in plot within the movie and book, is that the audience doesn't discover that Kevin is the husband of Erin/Katie until halfway through the film. This causes the audience to not view Kevin as the abrasive and dangerous husband that he really is.
  • In addition the way in which Alex finds out about Katie's broken past differs from the book to the movie. In the book Katie tells Alex about her broken past as their relationship progresses within the novel, however in the film Katie’s true identity is revealed to Alex after Alex discovers a poster with Erin's face on it wanted for murder posted in the Southport police station. After discovering her past, Alex doesn't trust Katie at first in the movie and is skeptical of her true identity, however in the book he is accepting of her corrupt past, and establishes a sense of trust and safety for Katie when she is with him.
  • Furthermore, in the film Katie's escape to Southport is her first escape while in the book it is her third escape. Initially she fled to Philadelphia, and then New York before residing in Southport, North Carolina. This shows her husbands tenacity to keep coming after her and her courage and desire to leave the drunken, violent and abrasive ways of her husband.
  • Lastly one of the key differences of the book and the movie is the way in which Kevin discovers where Katie/Erin is residing/hiding. In the movie, Kevin discovers Katie’s identity and location after studying the handwriting of a recipe given to “Erin” by their neighbor Glady Feldman. Kevin breaks into the Feldman house, and finds a recording left by Erin on the answering machine, thanking the Feldmans for facilitating her escape. Kevin traces the phone number back to Ivan's, the place where Katie works, and starts his quest to find her.
  • In the book however, Kevin finds Katie’s hiding location after her talks with Karen Feldman the daughter of the Feldmans after the death of her mother, Glady Feldman. Karen questions Kevin about Erin, and reveals that Erin reminds her of her younger deceased sister Katie. After disclosing this information with Kevin, Kevin discovers that Erin must have taken the identity of Katie, causing him to break into the Feldmans house and steal Katie’s social security number, allowing him to see that Erin obtained a driver's license. Acquiring this critical information allows Kevin to pinpoint Erin's location, and thus he embarks on his journey to find her.

Similarities and Differences in Setting:

The setting in both the novel and film are comparable. The setting in the novel along with the film begins in a small town in North Carolina as Katie has just recently moved from her house in Boston due to an abusive marriage. She arrives at Southport, NC which is near the mouth of the Cape Fear River in fear of her husband and desiring a fresh start. She soon discovers Southport is a beachy, tranquil community, befriending many people along with starting a relationship with Alex Wheatley. The town includes a small general store, where she meets Alex, Ivan’s, where Katie finds work as a waitress, and her quiet neighborhood, where she lives in a tiny cottage in the woods that only has one neighbor, Jo. The setting brings about her many bonds and poses as a relaxing, laid back, small knit town. The setting in which both the novel and the film serve as Katie’s desired “Safe Haven”.

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Similarities and Differences in Conflict:

  • The conflicts in both the novel and film are the same. Beginning with Katie, she struggles with an internal conflict throughout each. She has a hard time trusting the new people she meets, opening up to them about her past, and most importantly, falling in love. She is constantly reminded of her past and her abusive relationship although the reason she moved was to move on from her abusive marriage. Throughout the entire book and film, we see Katie combat this internal issue with herself, and watch her try to overcome it.
  • Another conflict found within both the novel and film is Katie’s abusive husband named Kevin. He constantly is trying to hunt Katie down throughout the storyline and since he has a profession as an investigative cop, this poses more of an issue for Katie and her desiring for a new life. She fears he will be able to track her down and with the help of the police station, he eventually does. He ends up in Southport, where Katie has to deal first hand with how to escape from his grasp once again.
  • Additionally, a conflict is found within Alex and Katie’s relationship. While Katie fears to trust another man, Alex is suffering with the loss of his wife Carly, who passes away from cancer three years ago. While Katie lies about her identity for the majority of their relationship, Alex eventually finds out and is hurt about being lied to since he has fallen for her. From this, Katie and Alex have to rebuild the trust lost from this.

Similarities and Differences in Theme:

  • Perilous situations have grave effects on love and trust. In both the film and the novel, Katie is caught in between a dangerous and corrupt marriage, and yearning to break free. However, this dangerous relationship has had detrimental effects on her interactions with people and specifically Alex. While this theme is more prevalent within the novel rather than the film, it still shows how her abusive situation hindered her ability to love and trust in the beginning of her relationship with Alex.
  • Moving on from the past in order to start new beginnings. This applies to both the film and the novel. Throughout the story Alex and Katie both have an element in their past in which they must begin anew from. Alex is grieving the loss of his wife yet trying to start new with Katie, while Katie is attempting to escape from her physically abusive husband and start a fresh new life with Alex. Both have had their time to grieve in the past but the story encompasses the light that comes ahead once you move forward.
  • Life may throw you challenges, but that is no reason to stop moving forward. This theme applies both to the film and the novel. This can be said due to the challenges that Katie faces as she goes through her life throughout the film and novel alike, yet Katie keeps attempting to move forward towards a better and safer life with Alex.
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Directors Approach

The director Lasse Hallstrom, changed a few scenes and utilized a multitude of techniques in order make the film more appealing to a female audience.

  • First off, Hallstrom casted Alex as Josh Duhamel despite the difference in hair color. The book depicts Alex as a 30 year old man who is "greying at the temples", however Alex in the book has brown hair, and is rather appealing to the eye.
  • In addition to casting Alex as an attractive male, Hallstrom casted Julianne Hough to play the role of Erin. By casting two attractive people for the main roles of the film, Hallstrom romanticizes the film and attracts more people to watch the film, because people are more inclined to watch a love story that follows appealing characters.
  • In addition to the casting of characters, Hallstrom utilizes music and lighting in order to convey the mood of each scene. Amidst scenes that include Kevin, the lighting is dark and the music is dreary, despondent, and suspenseful in order to establish Kevin as a threatening and crazed man that conveys a sense of danger. However in scenes that include Alex and his family, the lighting is brighter and the music is more romantic and uplifting. By doing this, Hallstrom associates Alex and his family as trustworthy and allows the audience and Erin to become attracted to him and find security in his presence.
  • Furthermore, through the unveiling that Kevin in not just a dedicated cop but is the abusive husband of Erin, and the unanticipated ending of Erin's friend Jo actually being the ghost of Alex's deceased wife, Hallstrom attempts to make the film more surprising and suspenseful for the audience. Hallstrom abruptly reveals these aspects of the film shocking the audience and trying to convey a sense of astonishment similar to the book.

Integral Scenes Removed:

  • While in the book there were about 8 or 9 scenes in which Kevin's drunken and brutal disposition was depicted, the movie only contained about one scene that portrayed his violent, inebriate, and obsessive character.
  • In addition, when the audience does get a glimpse of Kevin's true brutal state, it is not until the denouement of the film when Kevin arrives at Southport drunk and armed, in which we see the Kevin for the dangerous man he is. By not incorporating a multitude of domestic violence scenes, the corrupt relationship of Erin and Kevin is understated, and Kevin is not depicted to be as great of a monster.

Outside Sources Thoughts

Film Reviews

  • According to Rotten Tomatoes, 12% of critics liked the film
  • “keeping up with the movie’s inane plot twists makes for a capricious good time, but an unimaginative denouement turns the whole thing into a fool's errand.”-Drew Hunt, Chicago Reader
  • Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus: Schmaltzy, predictable, and melodramatic, Safe Haven also suffers from a ludicrous plot twist, making for a particularly ignominious Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
  • "All the usual romance and idyllic locations-and-vengeful-violent-ex-husband, up until the weirdest, most out-of-nowhere plot twist ever." -Stephen Silver, EntertainmentTell
  • "A movie whose punch line is so delightfully absurd that even after you pretty much know what's coming you spit out your Pepsi anyway."- Wesley Morris, Grantland
  • gives the movie 1.5/4 stars
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Book Reviews

While the film Safe Haven received substantial negative criticism mostly due to it's unpredictable and supernatural ending, the book Safe Haven seemed to receive much more acclamation.

  • According to Goodreads, the novel Safe Haven received 4.2/5 stars
  • "Wow, this is definitely one of the better Sparks books I’ve read, I sure hope he keeps going in this darker, less sappy direction with the next book too. I picked up SAFE HAVEN during a very busy time in my life and still found it unputdownable. Full of twists and turns, mystery and surprise and a HUGE suspense factor throughout. Of course we also get the romance (nicely done)."-Buggy, Goodreads
  • "This book, in my opinion, was completely different from any other book I've read of Sparks'. And that is a good thing! I would classify this book as a romantic suspense, or even a suspense in general. There were many instances where my heart was racing, and I couldn't find the strength to put the book down. And, as with all of Sparks' book, I found myself tearing up in parts. But not for the normal mushy-gushy reasons. Instead, I was crying because of the traumatic events taking place."-Jessica, Goodreads
  • "This is a MUST read for anyone in an abusive relationship. It will give you the courage needed to escape. I have a personal friend who did this exact thing and now her life is much better. When I listened to her tell her story it sounded exactly like Safe Haven. Nicholas Sparks is a wonderful writer. You can see truth in his writing." -Dianna, Goodreads
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