Safe Haven **½ (R) It was a dark and stormy night. An attractive, disheveled young brunette (Julianne Hough) is fleeing from a scene of violence. She runs into the home of an elderly woman, emerging later with short blond hair, boarding a bus seconds ahead of the pursuing cops. She debarks (debuses?) in a small North Carolina coastal village, gets a job as a waitress, rents an isolated cabin, and reluctantly starts falling for the handsome widower (Josh Duhamel) who runs the general store with his two kids and uncle. We learn before the rest that she’s a "person of interest" in a Boston homicide, and probably not using her real name in her new home.
The quiet drama, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, plods along as its inevitable romance blossoms, with some helpful advice from her other new friend - an attractive neighbor (Cobie Smulders), who seems nearly as secretive about her own backstory as our leading lady on the lam. We like Hough’s character, and hope she’s not really the perp of the pursuit, but don’t discover the truth of why she landed there for longer than the plot requires. Expect more focus on finding love than solving crimes as the tale unfolds. The action eventually picks up for a rather farfetched climax, with a welcome little perk at the end. If you find the actors engaging and have the patience for director Lasse Hallstrom’s idea of pace, the rewards are there. (2/14/13)