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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘The Lucky One’

Romance has always felt 'larger-than-life' to those who experience its powerful presence

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman |

3 Stars — Engaging

Romantic relationships often feel like they were meant to be, as though fate or even God has brought us together. This common experience is often identified in retrospect as a couple look back on their beginning and identify the serendipitous romantic elements. This is in part what makes The Lucky One believable.

Although a work of fiction, we identify with the romantic tale as we see two people brought together through circumstances so unlikely that we can only ascribe them to some greater force at work in their lives.

The film is based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, known for such romantic tales as The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Message in a Bottle, and directed by Scott Hicks, who asked Will Fetters to adapt Sparks’ novel for the screen. With beautiful scenes and subtle character development, we are introduced to the two people upon whom luck has smiled.

The young man is a Marine sergeant named Logan (Zac Efron) who comes upon a picture in a war zone that literally saves his life when a shell explodes in the place where he had been sitting just before he got up to pluck it out of the rubble.

The picture is that of a beautiful blonde young woman named Beth (Taylor Schilling). On the back of her picture, she had written the words, “Stay Safe.” As Logan serves the next eight months in the war, he and his buddies credit this pictured woman as his guardian angel when he survives moments when he should have been killed. He therefore decides to find her and express his gratitude after he is discharged from his third tour of duty. This proves to be a decision that changes his life.

This tale includes all the common tensions and insecurities we bring to the romances of our lives. In this case, there are other elements that add depth, as well as the struggle between good and evil. Logan finds Beth to be a lonely single mother grieving the loss of her brother and her parents, though not her marriage.

The story’s arch nemesis is Beth’s ex-husband Keith Clayton (Jay Ferguson), a bully hiding behind his small-town arrogance. But this evil is balanced with Beth’s savvy grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner) and her son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). As the tale unfolds, it becomes clear that all of us can grow and even evil can be won over with love.

With the satisfying ending and the prevailing universal sense that luck, fate or divine providence is at work in their lives, in the final analysis, it is love overcoming all odds that is undeniable. That is a valuable and hopeful message for all of us.


» When Logan is exposed by Keith, it causes a deep distrust in Beth. Although this provides a literary or cinematic tension in the tale, it also provides the opportunity for Beth and Logan to develop a relationship. What do you believe would have happened if Logan had told her about the picture from the beginning? Do you think they would have become a couple or not?

» The relationship that Logan developed with Ben seemed genuine. Do you believe he would have spent time with him even if he wasn’t falling for Beth? Why do you answer as you do?

» Keith’s power trip as a sheriff’s deputy is often how small-town police are portrayed. Do you believe this is a caricature or factual? On what facts do you base your opinion?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

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