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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Safe Haven

By
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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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