Let’s kick this review off with a quick bit of maths. Silvano Alves, the current Professional Bull Riders World Champion, has an average buck off time of 3.59 seconds. The Longest Ride, the new Nicholas Sparks adaptation from director George Tillman Jr, has an agonisingly lengthy running time of 128 minutes. Thus, in the same time that The Longest Ride takes attempting to fuse two intergenerational love stories you could feasibly watch over 2000 bull rides. Truly a “rock and hard place” decision but at least Silvano Alves wouldn’t be desperately trying to make you cry for the entire duration.
We open on the Hollywood version of regional cowboy entertainment, where the North Carolina crowd is almost entirely made up of “Daisy Duke” lookalikes hoping to wrangle themselves a stetson-wearing daredevil. It is here that Sophia and Luke first meet; she’s an artsy sorority girl and bound for a prestigious internship in Manhattan, he is a good ol’ fashioned ranch boy who’s been riding aggressive livestock since the day he could mount a calf (yeeeeehaw!). Wow, how will these two individuals ever reconcile their different lives to form a relationship?! This is monumentally groundbreaking stuff, definitely not a tale as old as time or something that Nick Sparks probably churns out like butter on a weekday morning.
After their perfect first date, our Romeo and Juliet happen to come across the scene of a car accident and manage to pull the elderly driver from the wreckage, along with a box full of letters and keepsakes. While the curmudgeonly Ira recovers in hospital, he takes a shine to Sophia and invites her to share in a story of 1940’s love through his old love letters. The Longest Ride attempts to juggle these two tales of star-crossed lovers but struggles to find a compelling balance. The result of the dual story structure is a film that starts with some promise of enjoyably cheesy romance but descends into a marathon of boredom. You’ll be able to finish the sentences of most of the characters, not because you’ve got good chemistry with them but because you’ve heard it all before.
Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson hold their own as leads alongside a well-aged performance from Alan Alda. Eastwood’s progress is evident, having come a long way since his small roles in his father’s projects, though there isn’t anything particularly challenging for him here. The most impressive work comes from Jack Huston as the young Ira, displaying genuine emotional range from love at first sight through to sheer heartbreak. His flashback partner (played by Oona Chaplin) is similarly charming and very well cast, looking absolutely perfect in WW2-era, small-town America.
Featuring pop-infused country or slow acoustic ballads, the soundtrack is no less obvious than the rest of The Longest Ride. Moving back to mathematics momentarily, the music plays a big part in the tearjerker formula. Take a frail old man, add an emotional monologue about the trials and tribulations of life and love, multiply with an arpeggiated piano line that flourishes into a full orchestral piece. The solution to this manipulative equation is soppy cry-bait of the highest order, on par with John Lewis Christmas adverts or any film featuring a dying dog.
The Longest Ride may work if you and your girlfriends are looking for something to elicit some cathartic weeping whilst admiring the hunky Eastwood in his tight denims. Everyone else is likely to find the experience to be corny to the point that it should be served on a cob and lathered in butter, mushier than mashed potatoes, and so overly sweet that you can only manage 2 or 3 bites before the whole thing descends into a gooey, sickly mess.
The Longest Ride is on wide release in UK Cinemas now – you can watch the trailer here.