The Longest Ride – Movie Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Writers: Nicholas Sparks (novel), Craig Bolotin (screenplay)
Stars: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda
As a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, it is safe to assume that The Longest Ride will involve passionate (rather wholesome) love, kissing in the rain, some sort of conflict keeping the lovers apart, and preferably somebody’s death. No Sparks adaptation should be watched in the hope of seeing something groundbreaking.
However, as an almost entirely predictable guilty pleasure, The Longest Ride is surprisingly watchable. The film focuses on Art History Senior Sophia (Britt Robertson), who meets hunky professional bull-rider Luke (Scott Eastwood) after she is dragged along to a nearby Rodeo by her sorority sisters. From the beginning, it is made very clear that they are from ‘different worlds’: she is just about to move to New York for an internship in a prestigious art gallery; he was born and bred on a North Carolina cattle ranch.
On the first date, Luke is the epitome of the ‘gentleman cowboy’; and there’s a great scene following the reactions of stunned students as he makes his way through campus to collect her, complete with cowboy boots and bunch of flowers. This chivalry is emphasised when they later spot a crashed car, and Luke rescues the elderly driver Ira (the wonderful Alan Alda), and the box of letters that he was determined to save. As Ira recovers in hospital, Sophia reads the letters to him, which he wrote for wife Ruth throughout their life together (why he can no longer read them himself, and why he constantly wrote to her is brushed over with little explanation.) This leads neatly into the films subplot, with the young Ira (Jack Huston) and Austrian refugee Ruth (Oona Chaplin) meeting and falling in love in the early 1940s. Often outshining the film’s leads, Huston and Chaplin have brilliant chemistry, and the period scenes are far more interesting to watch than the central plot they’re meant to echo; following Ira and Ruth’s struggles to have a family, and their growing interest in collecting Modern Art.
Director George Tillman Jr manages to keep the action moving along, though there is some definite suspension of disbelief required to get over certain plot holes and weak dialogue. This is helped by strong performances from the central cast, particularly Alan Alda, who managed to bring real humanity to what might otherwise have been a rather flat character. This is by no means a classic to rival the likes of ‘The Notebook’, but is a more successful film than many of the Sparks adaptations we’ve seen in recent years.