Bull-fighting glory versus giddy romance in slushy drama

Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride'' PA/Michael Tackett/Twentieth Century Fox
Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride'' PA/Michael Tackett/Twentieth Century Fox

THE LONGEST RIDE (12A, 128 mins) Romance/Drama. Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Lolita Davidovich, Gloria Reuben. Director: George Tillman Jr.

Released: June 19 (UK & Ireland)

Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, the undisputed maestro of slushy romantic fiction, The Longest Ride is a leisurely trot across emotional terrain that will be achingly familiar to any tear-stained fan of The Notebook or The Best Of Me.

Beautiful people fall giddily in love in lustrous close-up, fate throws them a curve ball, separation seems inevitable, but they decide to risk everything for that one precious shot at forever, usually with the spectre of death hovering ominously over at least one of the characters.

George Tillman Jr’s picture saddles up for that same narrative trek and lassos some sugary sentiment along the way in parallel timeframes, which handily share lessons of heartache and self-sacrifice in the past in order to provide characters in the present with a map to reconciliation.

Clint Eastwood’s son Scott proves he has inherited his father’s good looks and easy-going charisma as the swaggering hero, who believes in bringing a girl flowers on a first date.

He gamely strips off to send the target female audience into a swoon and catalyses a pleasing on-screen chemistry with Britt Robertson.

Eastwood plays hunky farmer’s son Luke Collins, who is badly injured during the Professional Bull Riders tour on a mean animal called Rango.

The creature bucks violently before the allotted eight seconds and Luke is fortunate to walk away with his life.

One year later, he makes his comeback and catches the eye of university senior Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson).

She is reluctant to pursue romance because she must leave North Carolina in two months for an internship at a New York art gallery.

Eventually, Luke and Sophia enjoy a magical first date and on the way home, they rescue an injured 91-year-old man from a burning car.

The passenger - Jewish art collector Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) - recuperates in hospital and Sophia offers to read aloud his treasured love letters to his late wife.

These gushing missives spark flashbacks to 1930s and 1940s North Carolina when Ira (now played by Jack Huston) is instantly smitten with neighbour Ruth (Oona Chaplin) and they make a series of sacrifices to nurture the relationship.

Past and present become entwined and Luke faces an agonising decision between bull-riding glory and his sweetheart.

Considering the excessive running time, The Longest Ride is an apt title for this unapologetically soppy confection.

Aside from the attractive leads, Huston and Chaplin are solid in flashbacks and Alda brings gravitas to his underwritten role as the sage mentor in matters of the heart.

He even adds a sheen of sincerity to the script’s relentlessly corny dialogue.

Bull-riding scenes are impressive, especially when Tillman uses slow motion to capture the raw power of the beast, contorting and flexing wildly as tendrils of spit stream from its mouth.

RATING: 5/10