Zac Efron plays Logan, a Marine on his third tour of duty who finds the photograph of a mysterious but lovely young woman. Just as he reaches down to pick up the photo, a bomb goes off. This simple action saves his life, which he attributes to the woman in the photo. Upon returning home, he becomes obsessed with finding her. But who brought this photo to the battlefield in the first place? Is she someone’s wife or daughter? This secret adds to the delicious layers of mystery in the story.
Noticing a lighthouse in the background of the photo, Logan manages to find the Louisiana town where the photograph was taken. He makes a pilgrimage from Colorado on foot with his faithful dog Zeus by his side. He does find the woman, pretty and lithe Beth, played by Taylor Schilling. Before he can tell her the purpose of his visit, she assumes he’s there for the job in her dog kennel. A little weirded out perhaps by his aspiration to wield a pooper-scooper or more likely by the intense sexual pheromones he exudes, this is hardly love at first sight for Beth. It’s her grandmother Ellie, a delightfully plucky Blythe Danner, who ends up hiring Logan. And the romance begins!
Zac Efron ups his acting game by playing Logan as a man who’s tightly wound yet unable to articulate his experiences of war. By giving a solid, but appropriately understated performance, we acknowledge that Logan’s still waters run deep and make him the eye candy we are desperate to unwrap and taste. Nicholas Sparks, author of the book on which the film is based, has skillfully crafted Logan as a broken young man with a kind heart who knows that life doesn’t often reward kindness. Schilling plays Beth as a protective mother with many emotional scars of her own. Her caution about letting a new man into her life is understandable, especially when we meet her ex-husband Keith, played by meatheaded Jay R. Ferguson, a man-child who hides behind his sheriff’s badge and wealthy family. Blythe Danner as Ellie adds a comfortable safety net to the emotional and physical threats that swarm the story, especially as Beth and Keith’s son Ben, played by the adorable Riley Thomas Stewart, gets used as a pawn in Keith’s power game. The rural setting complete with river, tree house and an autumn full of changing leaves make for a visual paradise that comforts the hurt and pain of the wounded characters involved. And did I mention the dogs? In this story, they work as symbols of faithful, loyal companions creating loving relationships to which most humans can only aspire.
Bottom line: This is an emotional, visual and romantic gift that will likely stay with you for some time. If you loved The Notebook, surely The Lucky One will find a place in your heart. And so will Zac Efron (sigh).
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