Logan doesn't know her name or where she lives. All he knows is a pretty smiling face that frames the kindest eyes in the world. This nameless guardian angel in a weathered photograph saved his skin, so many times. He's sure of it. And he's determined to find her. There's no other choice. He'll keep walking, he'll keep asking, and he'll find that girl in the picture no matter what it takes. He has a debt to pay.
When this U.S. Marine first spotted the picture in the dirt back in Iraq, he walked over to pick it up—and it saved him from a rocket blast that surely would have ended his life if he'd stayed where he was. "Keep safe" was scrawled on the photo's back. And that's exactly what he did. From the moment he put the pic in his pocket, he was just a little luckier, just a little more secure. Sure, he knows it was intended to be someone else's lucky charm. And he's even asked a ton of guys about it. But nobody claimed it. So he kept it …
… and now he's back in the States, walking from town to town, from city to city, looking for her. He's OK with the walking. Walking is good. It helps him keep his mind clear after three tours of war and death in a country on the other side of the world. So he'll keep going. He'll find her … and say thanks.
Logan does find her, miraculously. He discovers that the woman in the picture is named Beth, and that she's a single mother who runs a struggling dog kennel on the outskirts of a small town. After all his thinking and searching and thinking some more, though, when he finally meets her he can't seem to find the right words to say. So he ends up taking a job at the kennel, working hard to help Beth and her young son, Ben.
Ben's dad (Keith) is a local deputy and none too happy about the wandering Marine's presence. Maybe that's due in large part to the fact that Logan becomes something of a buffer between the heavy-handed Keith and his ex-wife. Logan also starts giving Ben some encouragement with his music lessons—something the boy's father never does.
Beth's grandmother, Nana, tells Beth that, even as a parent, she has to make wise choices and find a balance in her life. "Sacrificing everything in life for our children," she says, "is not selfless, it's foolish."
[Spoiler Warning] Eventually Logan is able to admit that he came to thank Beth for her photo's "protection" over him. At first she's not happy about him hiding that fact, especially since the photo was meant for her brother who died in the Iraq conflict. But Logan's sometimes stumbling sincerity eventually wins her over, and after piecing evidence together they realize the probable sequence of events, and the heroic and sacrificial choices Beth's brother made.
Interestingly, even the hard-nosed Keith is a hero by film's end as he puts his life on the line to save his son.
Logan plunks out "In the Garden" on Beth's piano. And a few weeks later he and Ben—who's learning to play the violin—play a duet of the hymn at church. "What if I screw up?" Ben worries as they prepare. Logan assures him with, "That's the great part about playing in a church … a forgiving audience."
Nana expresses her belief that Logan's arrival is some form of destiny, that a "higher force" intended that he find Beth's picture "for a reason." And Logan says, "Finding something like that in a war is like finding an angel in hell."
Beth regularly wears a cleavage-baring T-shirt and short shorts. And when she splashes in the lake with her canine charges, that T-shirt gets soaked. We also see her wrapped just in a towel after a shower.
Once Logan and Beth start becoming romantically inclined, there are several scenes featuring the young lovers embracing, caressing and kissing passionately. One sensual session starts in the shower (with both of them dressed) and moves to the bed (while both undress). We see them in underwear and also naked with critical parts covered by a sheet. We see sexual movements. A few times the camera takes notice of them as they fondle each other's (mostly) clothed backsides.
Beth reveals that she got pregnant while in high school. She immediately married Keith but ended up divorcing him because of his cheating ways.
We see bits and pieces of the war: huge explosions, flying shrapnel and percussive gunfire. Several men are shot and killed in the battles (their ends rendered with shaky camera work that minimizes the gore). Right after Logan returns home, he jumps at every loud noise—and when his young nephew wakes him from a dead sleep, he lurches up and roughly grabs the boy by the throat.
Logan and Keith have a few pushing-and-shoving encounters—mostly with Keith getting rough and Logan simply trying to hold his ground. Twice Keith roughly grabs Beth by the shoulders to drive home the "importance" of his words. When drunk he pulls his gun on Logan. (Logan quickly disarms him.)
In a storm, a man is struck by falling debris and drowns in a river's raging waters.
Crude or Profane Language
Five or six s-words. The same number applies to "h‑‑‑," and we hear one or two uses each of "a‑‑" and "d‑‑n." Jesus' and God's names are misused a couple of times each (God's being combined with "d‑‑n").
Drug and Alcohol Content
Logan and Beth have beers together, and she offers him a swig from a flask of harder stuff. Keith drinks a few beers at his son's birthday party, which turns his temper sour. He gets drunk downing shots in a bar.
Other Negative Elements
Before a bath, we see young Ben (he's about 7 or 8) wearing only a pair of underwear. After a ballgame, Ben comes home with a bloodied nose, prompting Keith to shake his head and spout, "I'll make a man of him yet."
Novelist Nicholas Sparks has seemingly become the go-to guy for romantic chick-flick story fodder. And this latest pic could be called merely the seventh of his novels to be adapted for the screen, joining the likes of Dear John, The Notebook and A Walk to Remember. But some critics are saying The Lucky One is the best of the lot. And it does, indeed, have a number of strong moviegoing moments.
Seasoned director Scott Hicks (No Reservations, Hearts in Atlantis, Snow Falling on Cedars) has given the onscreen amour just the right balance of evolving cinematic conflict and wipe-that-tear resolution. There are sacrificial and loving choices on display. And the handsome-soldier-coming-home-to-find-his-destiny love tale plucks a sentimental chord right now in America.
For all of its plusses, though, this pic has a big flaw that all too often comes part and parcel with romantic tales of this sort: Once the pretty leads realize just how perfect they are for each other, they can't help jumping into bed. Those steamy embraces and late-night caresses may aptly illustrate the sensual passion involved, but they set up an unnecessary easy-sexing worldview. And they certainly lend the wrong advice to any teen girls just hoping for a little hug-your-pillow romance.