February 27, 2013 -- This romantic film, adapted from a Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook” and “Message in a Bottle”) novel, has a few too many creepy elements in it to work well as a romance. Granted, the creepy elements aren't as creepy as those in the popular “Twilight” series, but they are creepy enough, and unnecessary enough, to upset the whole mood of the movie.
The film opens with the heroine, Erin Tierney (played by Julianne Hough of “Rock of Ages”) dropping a bloody knife and fleeing what appears to be a murder scene. Later, she is seen skipping town on a bus. She flees from Boston and ends up in a small coastal town in North Carolina. She quickly gets a job under an assumed name, Katie, and attracts the attention of a man, a store owner named Alex (Josh Duhamel of the “Transformers” movies), who is the widowed father of two, son Josh (Noah Lomax) and daughter Lexi (Mimi Kirkland).
After some false starts, the two young people become romantically involved. Then Alex spots a wanted poster naming Katie as a murder suspect. He tells Katie to leave town before the police catch her, but of course she doesn't. That is when the creepy cop (David Lyons of “Eat Pray Love”) who has been stalking Katie shows up in town, drunk and enraged, putting Katie and others in danger. Right after this it is reaveled that there is a supernatural element to this story that wasn't really hinted at before, and doesn't really fit in well with the rest of the story, either.
It seems to me this romantic story would have been a lot more romantic without the creepy, drunk, violent cop, or the fifth-wheel supernatural element. There is a violent death near the end of the film, and a child is put in mortal danger, too. Those things take a lot of the charm out of this romance. I think that putting children in danger is a cheap plot device. That particular plot device was put to work twice in this movie at key times.
Katie is a character who has been embraced by the whole community of Southport, N.C. Her boyfriend, Alex, has promised to protect her, and he has friends on the police force. She has plenty of support, but none of this is used in the final scenes of the movie, where she has to fight alone against an armed man while everybody else is off shooting off fireworks. The whole idea of the film was that Katie was isolated when she lived in Boston, but had lots of community support in Southport. That point was lost at the end of the film. That was an opportunity missed.
The acting is solid in the film, but the real scene stealer is the tiny child actor Mimi Kirkland, who plays Lexie. She dominates every scene she appears in. The other child actor, Noah Lomax, isn't given much to do in the film . He gets shoved into the background most of the key scenes. This film rates a C.
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