I’m an undisputed Nicholas Sparks fan. I have all the movies, and almost every book he wrote. So, of course I went to see The Longest Ride when it finally hit the screens. And I’m happy to announce, it’s a good one. The Best Of Me was an amazing book, but the movie missed the mark by so much that it was almost painful to watch.
At first, when watching the trailer, I was a bit apprehensive: the best part of The Longest Ride (book) is that it tells two stories simultaneously. I wasn’t entirely sure how they’d manage that, and expected them to mess it up. Turns out, yes, they changed a few things, but it makes it work.
Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) is a champion bull rider from North Carolina. Unfortunately, an accident takes him out of the competition and a year later he’s still struggling to make his comeback. At a college nearby, art student Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is focusing on her studies and her future working in New York. One night, her sorority sister Marcia (Melissa Benoist, ex-Gleek and future Supergirl) convinces her to leave her school work and accompany them all to a bull ride competition.
Sophia accepts and happens to meet Luke after the event. They banter well and it looks as if things could work out, but then Marcia stumbles out wasted, and Sophia has to take her home. As Luke tries to repeatedly call her in the following days, she resists his obvious interest because she knows she’ll be leaving for NYC in just two months. Yet eventually she gives in, and Luke wows her with a romantic meal by a lake.
On their way home, Luke notices a crashed car as he drives by. They get the passenger, an elderly man, out as quickly as they can. Almost unconscious, he directs Sophia to save a box from his vehicle before it starts to burn. At the hospital, Sophia decides to stay as Luke leaves to go back to his mother’s farm. When the old man wakes up, Sophia brings him the box.
Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) takes a liking to her and shows her the contents of the box. He used to write to his wife throughout his life, and now that she is long gone he enjoys remembering their time together by re-reading the countless letters he owns. Unfortunately he can’t see well anymore, and Sophia offers to read them to him, prompting a series of flashbacks:
Ira (Jack Huston) met the love of his life Ruth (Oona Chaplin) when she moved to his town in North Carolina. A Jewish refugee from Austria, Ruth and her family had a hard time adjusting to life in America, especially knowing that their whole family and friends hadn’t been so lucky as to escape in time. Ira, inherently shy and awkward, finally manages to ask Ruth out, and their romance blooms from there.
As Luke and Sophie meet again in the hospital, their feelings take over and they find themselves falling for each other. As the film follows their budding relationship as well as Ira’s life story, parallels appear and everything seems possible…
Considering the difficulties of telling two stories at once, I must say the movie manages quite well. Unfortunately, a big part of Sophia and Marcia’s back-story gets cut out, but I understand that there was enough drama in the story already. If you liked the movie however, I recommend reading the book to get to know the characters better and find out everything that’s been left out.
Scott Eastwood is the spitting image (in better, of course) of his father, and his gruff yet gentlemanly behaviour is as charming as ever. Britt Robertson is smart, funny and caring, the kind of girl next door we’d all like to have as a friend. And, as in many of his other stories, Sparks once again proves that even though he’s giving his readers the kind of romance they can only dream of, he’s also at the same time championing feminism, even if just a little.
Many of Sparks’ female leads are much smarter than their lovers. They go to college, are teachers, love art, are musical prodigies or have their own businesses. When they’ve been hurt (by life, circumstances or their former partners), they get back up and strive for improvement. The men are soldiers, cowboys, carpenters, or young men unsure of their path once college will be over. Those who have a career (surgeon, musician or store owner etc.) usually feel lost, or find themselves ill or unable to cope by themselves.
The soundtrack is right up my alley with plenty of country tunes, and a few choice songs from the late 30s and early 40s. The story of Ira and Ruth is one of a couple fighting for their love through one struggle after another. Ira often tells Sophia that love is hard work and that you shouldn’t just give up when things get tough; this should hit home for everyone who’s ever heard older people complain about today’s high divorce rates.
I agree with what the film is trying to say: yes, falling in love is easy. But you should try to fight for it every day, one compromise at a time, and when things hit a rough patch, you shouldn’t take the easy way out. Some things are worth saving, and life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. You may not know where you’re going to end up, but every trip will bring you closer to the place you want to be.
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