The blooming of new love in 2015 and the odds-defying relationship between soulmates in the 1940s intersect in "The Longest Ride," director George Tillman Jr. (2010's "Faster") and scribe Craig Bolotin's (1999's "Light It Up") calculating but ultimately touching adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' 2013 novel. Best-selling author Sparks knows how to adhere to a formula that will emotionally manipulate his dedicated readers in the best ways, and while the films based on his work have been made with varying degrees of success, this one shows a modicum of restraint while avoiding the hoariest of clichés. That is not to suggest the story is free of contrivances and plot devices—it isn't—but that Tillman and his cast are able to find the truth within each scene even when the script is blatantly pulling the strings.
Passionate Wake Forest art major Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is mere weeks away from moving to Manhattan for a coveted gallery internship, a fact not lost on her when she finds herself falling for professional bull rider Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood). Driving back from their first date, they spot a fiery car accident and narrowly save the injured driver inside, the elderly Ira Levinson (Alan Alda). At the hospital, Sophia finds a stack of old letters in a box she pulled from the wreckage, written by Ira as a young man (Jack Huston) to his one true love—and eventual wife—Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Theirs is a love story both sweeping and intimate, full of the happiness and disappointments that make up two intertwining lives fated for each other. As Sophia returns to read them to Ira, whose eyesight is fading, her own burgeoning romance is facing a number of obstacles. Luke's insistence on continuing to bull-ride even as a bad injury a year earlier puts him at immediate risk leaves Sophia and his mom, Kate (Lolita Davidovich), worrying for his life. With her big-city future and his small-town roots at odds, they have no choice but to make some tough decisions about whether they are right for each other.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review