I passed on this movie when it was in the cinemas a couple of years ago. It seemed to schmaltzy and coy from the (fairly awful) trailer I saw. Last night I found it while flicking channels, searching, more in hope than expectation, for something relaxing to watch. I ended up totally engrossed in a movie that was far better than I had expected it to be.
The story is structured as two parallel love stories of seemingly mismatched couples with strong, art-loving women and respectful, devoted men who nevertheless cannot easily give their partner what they need to be happy. The couples are separated by a two generations but connected by an accidental encounter and some well written letters that bring the past alive and provide a commentary on the relationship in the present.
The pacing is good: not too rushed or condensed and with a flair for delivering emotional tension, sprinkled with humour and joy. The film manages to deliver a strong emotional punch, despite it cute, almost Hallmark, ending because the quality of the camera work is superb, the script is strong and the actors deliver their performances with conviction.
The film is set in North Carolina, which is made to look truly beautiful. Some of the action is set in the bull riding rodeos which are made almost unbearably vivid by the close up, crystal clear camera work and lighting.
Britt Robertson, a young, slight, blonde woman delivers a performance full of strength and compassion as the modern day A-student headed for an NYC internship in an art gallery.
Scott Eastwood (yes, son of Clint) pushes beyond the tall, lean, deferential cowboy stereotype into someone who is dealing with significant internal conflict and more than a little fear.
Jack Huston (yes, grandson of John and nephew of Angelica) gets the fresh faced young jewish man in a 1940s small town just right and Oona Chaplin (yes, granddaughter of Charlie) delivers a sparkling performance as a passionate young Viennese refugee, intoxicated by art and determined to make a life with the shy young man of her choice.
"The Longest Ride" (which I still think is an awful title) is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. I've never read him but when I looked him up it turned out that he's had eleven of his books made into films. "The Longest Ride" is better than either of the other movies I've seen: "Message in A Bottle", which was OK but was formulaic and had Kevin Costner as the lead, and "Nights In Rodanthe" which I watched because it had Diane Lane in it.
Watch this when you're ready to go through something, cathartic but optimistic.
Below is a trailer for the film (this one without the dreadful voice over that ruined the first trailer that I saw).