Safe Haven: Movie v. Book

Samantha Mathewson

It’s expected that when a movie is made based on the book, it is just that: based off of— not cookie-cutter. But there is a difference between alterations and changes.

Safe Haven came to theaters on Valentine’s Day. It was the perfect Valentine’s Day movie because it gave the audience a sense of security to let their hearts lay easy in their chests, knowing that love is still possible and out there somewhere. However, in many different forms, I still think the book was better.

Movies have to appeal to a broader demographic, and the action that takes place has to be condensed; but a sense of the true story was lost at the expense of maybe five minutes or an extra line.

There were two stories in one; a sad horrible story about an abusive husband and his wife trying escape to a better life. But what really brought it around was the happy story of her falling in love again with a widower, and not only her being saved but her saving someone else in the process.

For those who read the book, however, you saw the changes right away, and the details that developed the attachment you had to Katie and her struggle for safety slip away. In the book, she did it alone, which made it so more inspiring that she made it out. She didn’t rely on her neighbor for her help; in fact, she was deceptive toward her neighbor because the possibility of forming any relationships and leaking any information on her new whereabouts could blow her cover and lead Kevin to her, which is exactly what happened.

I can understand taking out the religious elements that were present in the book for the movie, but I thought that it gave the story a certain depth and psychotic twist that made Kevin seem so much more deviant than he appeared to be in the movie. Kevin’s character referenced the Bible in the book, which propelled him to search for Katie since she was committing adultery and she should burn in hell for that since the Bible says so. This led Kevin to setting the store on fire.

Speaking of the fire, that’s another element that was changed. It lessened the connection between Katie, the kids and the devilishness of Kevin that Nicholas Sparks had created in the book.

In the book, Katie protected the kids with all her heart in the face of danger when Kevin lit the house on fire with Katie and the kids inside. But in the movie, it was only Lexi in the building and Katie was fighting Kevin outside while Josh was safe farther from the house. Kevin also didn’t even set the house on fire in the movie, he only put the gasoline down and a spark from the fireworks hit the deck covered in gasoline. So whose fault is it then? The Dad’s since he was the one setting them off? The Dad was also the one to save Lexi in the movie instead of Katie. While that may create a macho appeal, it takes away from Katie’s relationship with Lexi. Katie was always the one protecting Lexi, and it was Katie’s fault because Kevin had come looking for her, and was out to hurt her for how much she hurt him.

Another thing that was different in the movie was that the relationship between Alex and Katie was more open. This may create a sex appeal for the movie, but I think that the relationship was developed better in the book since it was important to not make the kids feel as though their mom didn’t matter. Going slow showed how careful Katie was with Alex’s kids, and how responsible of a dad Alex is.

Little did Katie know she had landed in a place that would keep her safer than she thought possible. After running away from the life she led before, she found a guardian angel she didn’t even know she had.

The essence of Jo, the deceased mom, was necessary as it guided Alex and Katie together and helped them both open their hearts to the possibility of starting over and letting themselves love again—that, for once, the pain could be eased and ended.

Jo was also essential because it was her last wish that someone would take care of her family when she no longer could, so she needed to have a say in who would take on that role. One key scene that tied Jo to being the spirit of the mom, was when she came to Katie in her dream and warned her that Kevin was here and they weren’t safe.

At that point in the book, I was still unsure if Jo was the mom, or still just her friend that had coincidently been everywhere she was needed and only ever seen talking to Katie. But when Katie made the connection that Jo had been a figment of her imagination, that was more real than an ordinary imaginary friend. She realized how important Alex’s family’s safety and her involvement in their lives were to her. I think the movie portrayed Jo perfectly and reflected what the book had done so well.

The relationships that are established in both movies and books are what drives the plot and draws the audience in to follow. While movie critics were right when they said that the chemistry between Josh Duhamel, who plays Alex, and Julianne Hough, who plays Katie, was igniting, there were other relationships to look at: Alex and his kids as he struggles to play mom and dad, Katie and Alex, and Katie and her husband who she is running from.

Katie came into Alex’s family’s life unexpectedly and took on a role that hadn’t been filled in a long time. Katie took on that role with confidence as though they were her own kids. In the movie, Lexi grew attached to Katie and loved having around her while Josh was hesitant to let Katie in at the expense of forgetting his mom. However, Katie got to know the family with such grace that proved to Jo that Katie could be trusted with taking care of her family.

In the book, Josh wasn’t as shut off and let Katie in easier, which strengthened their bond. I thought it had a deeper meaning than the movie.

I want to reiterate I know that the plot had to be condensed and, therefore, altered. I just think that certain things could have be retained and shortened without being tossed away and changed entirely.