Monday, April 23, 2012

The Lucky One [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert's review
The Lucky One (directed by Scott Hicks, screenplay by Will Fetters, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks) is a romance novel about an American marine, Logan (played by Zac Efron), who on his third tour of duty in Iraq amidst the rubble left-over after a raid that didn't go particularly well -- two different patrols unexpectedly converged on the same spot, then there really were insurgents there who did put-up a fight --  finds a picture of a young American woman with the inscription on the back saying "keep this."  He assumes that the picture was accidentally dropped there by one of the American soldiers who had been wounded in the raid.  But the picture apparently didn't belong to anyone from his unit and he apparently lost contact with the other one.  In any case, the picture proved to be good luck charm for him -- even as he picked it up from the rubble, he was narrowly missed by an enemy RPG and this happened to him several more times during his tour of duty afterwards.

So when he returned home to Colorado after his tour and realizing that he really had little else besides treatment for PTSD and his ever faithful dog, Zeus, waiting for him, he decides go look for the young woman on the picture -- Forrest Gump style -- walking.  After some months, in Louisiana (some 1200 miles away from Colorado), he runs into a few people at a bait-and-tackle shop who say that they recognize the woman.  They turn out to be right.  The young woman on the picture turns out to be Beth (played by Taylor Shilling) who lives with her grandma (played by Blythe Danner) and young son Ben (played by Riley Thomas Stewart) and operates a "dog care service" outside of town at the edge of Bayou country out there in Louisiana.

On meeting her, he tries to explain why he's there, but she's busy taking a number of phone calls and doing a number of relatively small yet apparently immediately necessary tasks, even as he's trying to speak.  So he never gets a chance to explain.  In the midst of her busyness, well behaved dog Zeus at his side, Beth and grandma assume that he's there applying for the job that they had recently advertised.  If Beth was somewhat taken aback at Logan's free admission that he had arrived in Louisiana from Colorado by foot (!!), grandma worried about Beth's simultaneous busyness/loneliness ... hires Logan on the spot.  And Logan accepts the job offer.  Much fairly predictable and some less predictable ensues. 

All in all, it's a rather nice, timely young adult romance (for American / other NATO country audiences).

The motiff of "the picture" in this case of a young attractive woman "back home," reminds me of the story of the "Stalingrad Madonna" a picture of the "Virgin Mary and Child" drawn by a German soldier as a morale booster for the men in his unit as they were hunkered down and surrounded, Christmas-time, in 1942 amidst the snow and rubble of Stalingrad.  After Christmas, he mailed the picture back to his sister in Germany on one of the last German flights to make it out of the city.  Subsequently, he was captured and died in Soviet captivity a few years later.  HOWEVER, the following year, again Christmas time, he had drawn ANOTHER "Madonna and Child" for his German comrades languishing with him as POWs in a prison camp somewhere in Soviet Central Asia.  He himself died out there as a POW.  BUT the German POWs who did survive and were finally able to return back to Germany in 1954 (!!)  -- nearly 10 years after the end of the war -- CAME BACK with the soldier's SECOND MADONNA honestly testifying that the picture helped save their lives.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism in Russia, a copy of the Stalingrad Madonna was solemnly received by the Orthodox Cathedral in now Volgograd.  The original hangs in a Cathedral in Berlin and a third copy in the Cathedral in Coventry England (destroyed by a notorious German terror air-raid in 1940) and is seen as a symbol of the possibility of reconciliation between all three lands.

I mention the story of the Stalingrad Madonna because American experience is not unique.  ALL common soldiers from all countries, even the most guilty ones, often suffer terribly during wartime (to say nothing of innocent civilians) and all have people, buddies and families that love them.  Don't get me wrong, The Lucky One is indeed a very lovely story, of suffering, loss and "going on" but we have to remember that we're not the only ones who've ever suffered ... and learned from that suffering.

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