"The Longest Ride"
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Artwork, cowboys, World War II and North Carolina. While none of these seem to connect, the newly-released romance “The Longest Ride,” based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, manages to connect all of these while telling the love story of two young North Carolinians. A refreshing new theme of sacrifice, rarely explored in Sparks’ usual stories, allows the audience to enjoy a classic Sparks romance but without a cliche, expected ending.
When Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) and Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) find a car crashed on the side of the road in flames, they immediately take action and help the old man trapped within recover. As they help the old man, Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), they realize their lives intertwine through the similarities of their experiences during the time of World War II, which is incorporated throughout the movie. Ira recounts his past love with his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin) and tells Sophia and Luke about the ups and downs he experienced with her.
As Ira tells these stories, Sophia and Luke begin to form a romance that tests the difficulty of sacrifice. They both come from completely different worlds — Sophia is planning on moving to New York to study art, while Luke is a professional North Carolina bull rider. The dangers of Luke’s career begin to come in the way of the two young lovers. Sophia and Luke’s problems begin to mirror what Ira and Ruth had to go through, only attesting to the story that Ira tells about what he had to sacrifice for his wife. Luke and Sophia learn to work with each other and give up parts of their lives for the other from learning about Ira’s experiences.
The theme of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the movie, appearing in a variety of ways that allow parts of the topic to be relatable to any audience member. Through the emotional tales that are told, the stories between Sophia and Luke and Ruth and Ira allow a refreshing message — that love isn’t enough — to be shown through the movie. While most Sparks-based movies attempt to portray the idea that love is all people need, “The Longest Ride” rejects that statement by saying while love is a powerful force, it is not the only thing needed to maintain a healthy relationship.
The movie is also very easy for audience members to relate to, since there are four protagonists rather than two, unlike an average Sparks movie. Another strength of the movie is its showcasing of several personalities, with the different characters eliciting empathy from the audience and increasing the film’s relatability. The movie fully fleshes out the characters, providing backstories for each protagonist and allowing the audience to completely understand the characters’ intentions and desires.
However, these desires are very mushy and romantic. While the film is romantic with many sweet moments reflecting the characters’ desires to see their respective partner safe, these wishes can be a little hard to empathize with. Some seem realistic for middle-aged adults, such as wanting children, but college students may have a hard time relating to goals like that, which come with maintaining a long-term relationship.
Amid all of the romantic scenes that usually carry a romantic movie, the incorporation of World War II and bull riding ramps up the pacing and energy of the film. Although the action is not equivalent to that of an action movie, it is still a good movie to see if one likes to watch a sweet story with a quick pace.
Every audience member can certainly form an emotional connection to the movie and take something away from it. Through watching the film, Sparks fans in particular will appreciate the new message that love is not the only factor for a successful relationship.