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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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