Gift-laden college graduate Charlie St Cloud (Efron) has everything ocean-going for him - a sailing scholarship to Harvard and the unconditional love of his 11-year-old brother Sam (Tahan).
But just as he is about to leave for college tragedy strikes - his car is hit by a juggernaut and he is only brought back from the brink by paramedic Ray Liotta.
Sam is not so lucky. He dies in the pile-up, leaving Charlie shot-through with remorse when he blames himself for an accident that wasn't his fault.
However, in a supernatural twist, he is able to make amends when Sam's spirit returns and the two brothers promise to meet every day for baseball practice in the woods.
To honour this ghostly deal, Charlie gives up the chance to go to college and ends up working as a groundsman at the local cemetery, weeding plots and and waging war on destructive geese.
Five years down the line he meets Tess (Crew), a top yachtswoman who intends to sail round the world and who is attracted to Charlie after she gets him to clear up her dead dad's grave. Ah, the romance of it.
That director Burr Steer's second collaboration with Efron after 17 Again actually works is a tribute to the acting skills of the ever-improving Efron, who strikes just the right balance between grief and introspective miserabilism.
It could get mawkish...but bizarre comic interludes are provided by Charlie's gravekeeping buddy Alistair, a gin-swigging Cockernee geezer - and the pace is kept up with a breezy script.
Based on the novel by Ben Sherwood, its conceit - that love transcends earthly ties - has been dealt with in grown-up movies like The Time Traveler's Wife but it's rare teenage audiences get the chance to clock a metaphysical mystery when they could be watching a vampire fight a werewolf for the hand of a sourpuss.
Against the odds it works, backing up the great Andrew Lloyd Webber's romantic assertion that love never dies...
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