There’s a moment in George Tillman Jr.’s The Longest Ride – based upon Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name – where our male protagonist Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) rants about art. It’s “bullshit” he claims. He can’t figure out why a “squiggly line on a blank white canvas” could be worth so much money. His inability to find a deeper meaning within, however, is somewhat emblematic of our take on this very film. Probably not the best idea for a character in a film of this ilk to question the legitimacy concerning a piece of art, eh?
Luke is a champion bull rider, and it’s at his place of work where he first meets Sophia (Britt Robertson), who was persuaded by her friend to give the event a go. The pair hit it off instantly, but as the latter reveals her plans to pursue her career and move to New York in the coming weeks, there’s a lingering sense of futility present, as they question whether it’s worth entering into anything serious. But then they meet the elderly gentleman Ira (Alan Alda in the present day, and portrayed by Jack Huston in flashbacks), who tells them about his own romance with his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin) and explains that sometimes love can be worth fighting for.
As we so often see with films that have been adapted by the novels of Sparks, there’s a mawkish, saccharine romance at the heart of proceedings, which is a shame as it deviates away from the more intriguing themes explored in Ira’s story. Instead we’re delving into the notion of nostalgia; of regret. However whenever we even get close to becoming immersed in that world, we return back to the present day, and the tedious relationship at hand. Neither actor have a great deal to work with, which is especially frustrating in Robertson’s case, as she has a certain attitude about her; a sarcasm that could serve this title so well. Instead, we have such an earnest, sincere piece of cinema, which is detrimental, as you can’t help but feel that a more tongue-in-cheek approach, where the film affectionately pokes fun at itself would have made for a more enjoyable experience. In the meantime, this picture is far too long and has no need to surpass the two hour mark. The Longest Ride? We’ve just been on it.
But then what did we expect? This film is completely and utterly in tune with the rest of the movies based on Sparks’ novels. They exude a very distinctive spirit and tone, set in front of the hazy, North Carolina backdrop, where true love prevails. It seems that regardless of who is at the helm, these films will maintain the same sensibilities, which in some ways, almost makes this review redundant. Because if you like Sparks’ films, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this endeavour. And if you don’t? Stay clear, because it’s rather unlikely this is going to change your mind.