UK Release Date: 19th June 2015
Runtime: 128 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr
Writer: Craig Bolotin
Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Melissa Benoist
Synopsis: A bookish college student finds herself lured into a more dangerous, but exciting, world when she starts to date a champion bull rider.
There are probably too many certainties in the world of cinema. One of the most comforting ones, though, is the consistency of the film adaptations of the works of serial romantic novelist Nicholas Sparks. His stories are basically a bundle of tropes vaguely assembled into a story, which somehow has the power to melt the heart. The latest entry in the canon – The Longest Ride – does nothing to change the formula.
Sophia (Britt Robertson) is engrossed in her studies, but is coaxed by a friend (Melissa Benoist) into attending a bull riding event. There, she meets champion rider Luke (Scott Eastwood) and they start a romance. One night, they happen upon old man Ira (Alan Alda), who has been in a car accident. Sophia regularly visits Ira in hospital to ask for advice and read to him.
Right from the start, The Longest Ride wears its Sparks-ness on its sleeve. Every shot is baked in soft focus sun and the promise of romance as we’re introduced to Britt Robertson’s spiky, intelligent woman and the blokey, macho bull rider played by Scott Eastwood, son of Clint Eastwood.
| "She had a great eye for talent, but I only had eyes for her."
Robertson, tackling something more mature than her aged-down role in Tomorrowland, is the perfect mixture of innocence and intelligence. She is witty and cutting in the best possible way, whilst maintaining just the right amount of vulnerability. She’s more than a match for Eastwood, who unfortunately is cast as little more than a sun-drenched torso in the mould of Taylor Lautner in Twilight.
The true star of the film, though, is Alan Alda. He imbues The Longest Ride with a maturity and sensitivity that elevates it above some of the trashier Sparks adaptations. His narration of the flashback sequences is aided by terrifically melodramatic performances from Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin as the past incarnations of Ira and his wife.
The Longest Ride is not a film that is on board with subtlety. From the very start, the similarities between the flashback relationship and the one in the present day are blindingly obvious. There are almost no surprises in the script and the film takes an awful long time to get through its basic plot. It doesn’t even have the joy of the bonkers third act twist that makes most Sparks movies worthwhile, instead producing a laughable contrivance of bland and utterly lame-brained simplicity.
| "Love requires sacrifice, always."
Despites its generic trappings and lack of imagination, The Longest Ride is an effortlessly charming piece of work. It’s sweet enough to coax a tear from even the driest of eyes, but also sickly enough to have the audience shaking their heads in disbelief.
Pop or Poop?
It’s not the most successful film from Nicholas Sparks’ own little romantic sub-genre, but The Longest Ride is a charming drama with plenty of heart and warmth.
Britt Robertson excels in the lead role and Alan Alda provides ample support as the wise guide through the trials and tribulations of love.
It gets a bit preposterous at the end, but the final outcome, which was never in doubt, is a happy one.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.