The Longest Ride is a weird anomaly where the Trailer shows a much more complete version of a concept than the actual film does.
The story goes that Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) starts falling for Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) but Sophia is planning to move away to New York within months which strains their relationship. As they head home one night they notice a car has run off the road. They rush to save an old man trapped in the car who tells them to save ‘the box’. It turns out that this box is full of letters from Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) to his wife Ruth. These letters reveal the old man’s life to have striking parallels to the Sophia and Luke relationship.
This simple premise of a box of letters could have allowed for a really interesting and dynamic structure to the film’s narrative. As Sophia is waiting for news of Ira’s recovery she reaches into the box and pulls out literally any letter that comes to hand. This letter seems to be the very first letter he wrote or at least the start of his relationship with his wife. How convenient. When Ira wakes Sophia offers to read Ira another, seemingly random letter, which of course happens to be the very next step in the story.
What a wasted opportunity. We are forced into a well trodden chronology of Ira’s life instead of having a broken chronology that gets pieced together as the film develops. It’s not just the narrative structure that this affects but also the depth at which these two couples are intertwined. Picking a random letter gives the instant excuse for Ira’s life to mimic Sophia’s which in turn allows the two to grow instantly closer together. As it is the closest we get to our promised entanglement of lives is “oh love is hard and you have to sacrifice things”.
This seemingly leaves the film to be about Sophia holding a general interest in Ira’s life and the concept of the box of letters is sinfully forgotten. Still, who wouldn’t find Ira’s life interesting. Alan Alda plays a wonderfully forlorn old man on death’s door, a man full of life experience and wisdom and a man who still pines for days gone by. Alda has a really great voice which beautifully narrates the moments when we are treated to flashbacks of his life.
As a young man; Ira (Jack Huston) is convincingly in love with his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). The chemistry between these two is excellent and you really feel that Ira would do anything for Ruth. The scenes with this young couple are both well shot and well realised to give you an authentic feeling of the 40’s. These are the scenes that I constantly looked forwards to in the longest ride and not those with our two lead characters.
In contrast though I didn’t get this feeling of a deep loving relationship from Sophia and Luke, which once again alienated me from this notion of similar lives separated by time. Instead of a eternal love I couldn’t help shake the feeling that this was just a summer fling. The chemistry just wasn’t enough and a different leading lady would have worked out better. I actually liked Sophia’s character on screen but it’s not the character she is meant to be; reserved, art loving and studious. Instead she seems fun loving and mostly care free.
Scott Eastwood worked well as Luke the local bull riding hero. Physical enough to suit the bull-riding part of his character yet old fashioned enough to play the gentleman. The bull riding scenes were actually quite spectacular; shot in super slow motion you get to see a snotting and snarling bull thrashing on screen, it’s actually quite terrifying to think about sitting on the back of one.
Luke constantly proclaims he needs money to look after the farm and his mum but is that really so true? She clearly has enough money to have plenty of plastic surgery so it didn’t sit right with me and is one of the many small attentions to detail that were missing in the film. Another such example is Sophia galloping confidently on a horse on her first try! Hmm…
For all the films faults though the scenes with Ira will tug on your heart strings all the way up to it’s touching conclusion. Whilst this will surely bring tears to the eyes of many in the cinema the film is overall just another generic romantic comedy with obvious plot developments and less risk than a donkey ride on the beach – let alone a bull ride.
- Ira’s life
- An emotional ending
- Wasted narrative opportunities
- Wrong leading lady
- Obvious plot twists