BY ARIANA POTICHNYJ
“There is no safer place for you than here with me.”
When I first decided to pick Safe Haven to review, I was going to do it from the point of view of someone who has been single for seven years (because who doesn’t love a cynical review of a Nicholas Sparks movie?). But then I watched it and I can safely say, it opened me up in a way I’ve never had happen before.
No, I’m just shitting you. Safe Haven, in my opinion, is the no-name brand Notebook. It’s even got a marsh/bayou rowboat scene. Except the one in The Notebook was stunning, and this one seemed subpar in comparison. And, of course, I could tell you about how I was rolling my eyes, asking what sort of super popular and sad disease would riddle one of the generically good-looking leads. But instead, I am going to talk about domestic abuse. And how I am sick of domestic abuse plots in romantic movies.
Domestic abuse should not be romanticized. The technique of showing people an abuse victim (may it be male or female) who escapes their abuser only to find love all over again is inherently flawed. Sure, in Safe Haven we get the standard “Oh, it’s so hard for me to trust and love again,” but victims of abuse do not overcome hardships just because the person that is interested in them is handsome.
Safe Haven plays with a very dangerous trope: the damsel in distress. And she valiantly escapes her abuser, runs off and accidentally finds her knight in shining armour. And I just couldn’t get past how dismissive it was to the real issues of abuse. And the worst part of it all was when I told my friend back home about this movie, she said that she had seen it and loved it. She said it was a great movie to teach people to love again. And then gave me a very pointed stare via Skype and said, “Perhaps some people writing the reviews should take away the core message, and not dwell on whether or not the abuse plot was handled correctly”.
So, I did the adult thing, after hanging up on my friend, and watched the movie again. Perhaps I did miss something —the core meaning of the movie, the really important message. Maybe if I watched it again, I could look past the haphazard use of domestic violence and abuse as a substitute for cancer in this movie. But I couldn’t.
And maybe that’s why I like The Notebook better. Not only is it more beautifully shot, with a better cast, and a stronger, tearjerking plotline, but The Notebook doesn’t pretend to deal with potentially dangerous situations that could negatively affect its audience. The Notebook talks about love overcoming all obstacles, while Safe Haven seems to make an empty promise that loving someone else will save you from your troubles. If someone took me to see this for Valentine’s Day, or as a date, I would be deeply, deeply concerned.