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One to tug the heartstrings

Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride, reviewed by KIM TAYLOR-FOSTER

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

One to tug the heartstrings

The Longest Ride (PG)
Running time 2hr 19mins
Rating: ***

NICHOLAS Sparks’ adaptations always do well at the box office. The prolific novelist is the brains behind romantic blockbusters including Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Dear John and The Lucky One, among others – all
of which have been made into successful Hollywood movies. A gushing tap of soppy stories to jerk the tears of even those with the hardest of hearts, Sparks’ trademark narrative device is to centre his stories around a tragic event. The Longest Ride is no exception.

When fledgling couple, college student and art-lover Sophia (Britt Robertson) and professional bullrider Luke (Scott Eastwood), come to the rescue of a much older man involved in a car accident, Sophia forges a unique relationship with the hospitalised Ira (Alan Alda). As she learns more about his life – shown to us via a series of flashbacks, with Jack Huston playing the young Ira – she learns some valuable lessons. When she and Luke are forced to examine their choices as their respective careers threaten to tear them apart, Ira’s story helps them to see clearly what it is they must do.

It’s easy to dismiss a romantic drama that takes itself seriously, and it’s just as easy for that drama to fall into cheesy sentimentality. But while some of the film versions of Sparks’ back catalogue may be guilty of this, The Longest Ride is a touching and sensitive plausible cautionary tale of true love.What’s different about this film is its depiction of lasting love. Ira
is as much in love with wife Ruth (played in her younger years by Oona Chaplin) as he was when he first met her. Love in the ‘golden years’ is rarely depicted in this way – if at all – in Hollywood and it’s heartwarming. But the key to its success is in its message that to make love work is far from easy; it takes sacrifice and compromise. Ira makes the point that a love like he had doesn’t happen often, and it doesn’t happen for everyone. So if it comes along, we should do all we can to keep it.

With a joint love of art between Sophia and Ruth further weaving the two couples’ stories together, a neat and inventive ending strengthens the cinematic experience, for a romantic drama that will genuinely tug at the heartstrings.

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