Another cliched romantic melodrama which is more appealing in its first half before its gets into its "deeper" issues happens to be another lushly mawkish adaptation of Nicholas Sparks (Dear John, A Walk To Remember, Message in a Bottle, and so on, with more to come).
The Lucky One (for the distaff side) benefits from the bulked-up presence of heartthrob Zac Efron (The Lorax, Charlie St. Cloud, 17 Again and so on) as a Marine named Logan who has survived three tours of duty in Iraq. His brooding character may remind some of one like Robert Pattinson played in Remember Me whose arc will be predicated on therapeutic and redemptive elements. By the way, the scribe of the aforementioned film, Will Fetters, adapts Sparks under the delicate, if undistinguished direction of Scott Hicks (The Boys Are Back) to elucidate the author's finer ingredients working off the notion that the "smallest thing that can change a life." It's a different role for Efron than he's accustomed to playing, and for some fans he might be an ideal fit to the premise of happenstance and how it includes the power of love.
In this case it's the picture of a woman found in the sandy rubble (with a lighthouse in the background) that has inadvertently saved his life. Upon his return to his native Denver, a post-traumatic stressed Logan fulfills the vow to thank her (after some on-line activity) on a sojourn to North Carolina. To fit into the trappings of this kind of soap-opera (maybe a continuation on the themes Sparks illuminated in the novel whose adaptation featured Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum) there has to be some initial conflict between the protagonist and his destined love interest. Here, it's kennel owner Beth, a fairly striking Taylor Schilling of TV's Mercy, who displays some of this type of apprehension as Logan (with dog Zeus in tow) lets her believe that he's interested in employment at her place of business.
But, of course, as they spend more time together at the shelter, Beth will be induced to give in to her naivety, as grief-stricken as a single mom like her can be as Fetters seems to dole out key information on the late side. While the torment ingrained in Logan may detract from Efron's usual charismatic presence, something can be said for the on-screen rapport with Schilling (at least for a while). Especially since the latter embodies a loneliness and anguish with a vulnerability that is rather palpable. There are some revelations that will resonate more with the targeted demographic, specifically where a loved one is concerned. Sequences involving Jay R. Ferguson's oafish local cop (Emily's estranged ex) allow certain characteristics of Beth and Logan to register with an audience.
Hicks (who impressed on so many levels a long time ago with his acclaimed Shine) has some difficulty grounding a post 9/11 tale through its contrivances and episodic, even dispassion nature. His craftsmanship is evident through his work with lenser Alar Kivilo and composer Mark Isham to provide an understated elegance, but can't give enough spine and viscosity to the ragged plotting which cues an ending before the actual one arrives. Yet, Efron and (more so) Schilling do their best to overstep the stereotypes inherent in their characters where the title eventually labors to earn its meaning. Besides Ferguson whose presence tries to add more focus to the tension, Blythe Danner is appropriately cast as Beth's insistent, yet supportive grandma, Ellie, while Riley Thomas Stewart (The Beaver) exudes some natural young actorly qualities as Beth's son Ben.