The Longest Ride (1 star)

The Longest Ride

Risible romance from the Nicholas Sparks production line, with Scott Eastwood

Spurred on by the success of 2004's The Notebook, the writings of Nicholas Sparks have spawned a string of drippy romances including Dear John, The Lucky One and Safe Haven, with George Tillman Jr’s film marking the tenth entry in the series. Blandly photographed and unexceptionally acted, The Longest Ride is a typically generic love story from the Sparks production line.

Picking up where his father Clint left off with the similarly wistful The Bridges of Madison County, Scott Eastwood plays Luke Collins, a North Carolina bull rider whose bravado hides the fragility of his physical health. Luke’s rugged good looks attract Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), an arts graduate about to take up a prestigious gallery position in New York. Pulled in different directions by incompatible career choices, Luke and Sophia’s chance rescue of Ira (Alan Alda) from a burning car leads Sophia to read through a box of the old man’s love letters. Studying the six-decade relationship between young Ira (Jack Huston) and his lover Ruth (Oona Chaplin), Sophia begins to see the bigger picture when it comes to making a relationship work.

Ira’s advice to Sophia, that ‘love requires sacrifice’, is awarded a transformative power here that strains credulity. Taking this revelatory philosophy on board, Sophia rejects both her own ambitions and the lure of the city in favour of her bone-headed beau. The sexual symbolism of their courtship, notably Luke coaching Sophia to ride his mechanical bull, is truly risible, and the WWII flashbacks to Ira’s past feel like a welcome relief from the couple’s torrid lovemaking.

The Longest Ride never hits the amusing heights of silly melodrama reached by Safe Haven and last year's The Best of Me. Conventional, painfully slow and carrying some confusingly mixed messages about relationships, Tillman Jr’s film constitutes the worst kind of artificial bull.

General release from Fri 19 Jun.

The Longest Ride

  • 1 star
  • 2015
  • US
  • 2h 19min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
  • Written by: Craig Bolotin, Nicholas Sparks
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson
  • UK release: 19 June 2015

Luke (Eastwood) is a North Carolina bull rider who forms a relationship with arts graduate Sophia (Robertson), who then rescue elderly Ira (Alda) from a burning car. It's a Nicholas Sparks movie; when Luke teaches Sophia to ride his mechanical bull, 'mechanical bull' is pretty much the size of it.