The Longest Ride
Director: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda
139 mins; Class 12;
KRS Releasing Ltd

This is the sixth of author Nicholas Sparks’s adaptations I have had to review out of the 10 novels of his that have reached the big screen; with more, it seems to come.

All Sparks’s films so far have amassed an average Rotten Tomatoes rating of an underwhelming 26 per cent between them; yet their target audience firmly and loyally turns out in droves, having forked out a rather considerable €800 million to watch these films so far…

That said, while the Sparks formula is simply bland, predictable and slushy, set against picture-perfect backdrops, the actors who bring his characters to life have often injected much warmth and feeling into their rather one-dimensional roles.

Joining the roster of the likes of Miley Cyrus, Amanda Seyfreid, a pre-Orange is the New Black Taylor Schilling, Liam Hemsworth, Channing Tatum and Zac Efron are Britt Robertson (of the recent Tomorrowland) and Scott (son of Clint) Eastwood.

And like their predecessors, they and their co-stars Oona (granddaughter of Charlie) Chaplin and Jack (nephew of Anjelica) Huston succeed in making The Longest Ride enjoyable enough.

Robertson and Eastwood star as Sophia, on the cusp of college graduation, and Luke. After graduating, Sophia plans to take up an internship at a prestigious New York gallery to pursue her career in art. Luke is a professional bull rider keen to regain his rankings after being away from the sport for having suffered a serious injury.

The stage is set of a typical love-fest

Sophia and Luke meet and they click. Yet, Sophia is not too keen on pursuing the relationship given her impending departure to New York. However, when driving home from a date they save Ira, an old man (Alan Alda) from a car crash and befriend him. The touching story of his marriage to his beloved Ruth seems to imbue in Sophia and Luke the foundations of a stronger love.

And so the stage is set for a typical Sparks love-fest. While Robertson and Eastwood have enough chemistry and charisma to make their part of the story engaging enough – she bright, fun and articulate; him a chip of the old block with his brooding good looks – what lifts the film out of the gooey predictability that so often coats Sparks’ stories are Ira’s flashbacks, from when his younger self (Huston) meets Ruth (Chaplin), the woman he will fall in love with at first sight, until he grows into the lovable grouch embodied by Alda.

As the relationship unfolds from the early 1940s you can’t deny the genuine sentiment that permeates as the two young lovers, get married and grow old together, facing many moments of heartbreak. Ruth’s passion for art is oftentimes the glue that holds them together in troubling times.

Chaplin and Huston make for an attractive and convincing couple. And even if their story is littered with some eye-rolling clichés, both actors rise above them to create a couple you find you genuinely care for as by the end their storyline makes for a satisfying and tear-jerking romance.

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