April 14, 2015/
Release Date: April 9th, 2015
Defining romantic relationships for 11 years, Nicholas Sparks must be a happy man. Smiley widely, applying chick-flick chic to another novel adapted for screen, knowing droves of fans will fill seats to see what writer of The Notebook, Safe Haven, and The Last Song (and more) offers up next.
In The Longest Ride lovebirds Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) and bull rider Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood), become intertwined in the life of Ira (Alan Alda), an elderly man they rescue from a car wreck. Learning about his past love and its eerie similarity to their own, the two glean Ira’s wisdom and use it to negotiate Luke’s dangerous career, and Sophia’s artistic endeavours. Wondering how they’ll make their love work, requisite emotional tension ensues as Luke and Sophia struggle to manage romance amid their differences.
Now, I will admit most of The Longest Ride is spent ogling Scott Eastwood and being as suggestively steamy as possible, but in all the schmooze-y slow-mo’ shots of his forearms, there is something worth considering about fairytale romance.
Juxtaposing Ira’s ‘old-school’ relationship with Sophia and Luke’s modern one, The Longest Ride opens up conversation about what ‘happily ever after’ really looks like, and if indeed it’s possible. Our romanticizing of ‘back-in-the-day’ relationships is met with the reality of how our grandparents struggles match much of our own – even if they did wear bonnets and bright red lippy in the process; Both generations learn the same lesson: all love, even ‘true love’, requires sacrifice.
On your wedding day, or the outset of a new relationship, sacrifice seems like a great idea. You’ll happily give up claim to freedom, selfishness, and earthly possessions, excited for the relationship it leads to on the other side. Yet somehow along the way, you begin to believe what you’ve settled for isn’t enough. Listening to voices around you, focusing on apparent ‘lack’, resentment seeps in and suddenly your sacrifice seems more like a weighty burden than joyfully given gift. Your ‘happily ever after’ is cactus.
…So how do you get back to being willingly sacrificial?
Sophia, Luke, and Ira, all face the same question. For them it comes down to a simple shift in perspective and filmic magic, but I think another part of the answer is found in Christ.
Consider the example of His ultimate sacrifice: He gave up His life so that we could have relationship with Him. Motivated by the same quest for connection (albeit far more consequential) He let go of His life so we could eternally have ours. In that sacrifice He promised if we draw near to Him, He’d draw near to us (James 4:8). He opened the door to intimacy by making the first sacrificial move – we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Where resentment breeds bitter distance, Christ showed us sacrifice cultivates open connection. It invites response. Our resolution of issues beyond ‘happily ever after’ comes back to remembering the significance of our sacrifice, and making a move. It isn’t a submissive gesture, but one of grand love. It’s not about being walked on, but returning to your promise and listening to its voice instead.
The Longest Ride is a good conduite for conversation, and a pointer in the right direction (even if occasionally dry-reach inducing), but do bear in mind it’s sexual content is more ‘adult’ than some of Sparks’ other creations.
High point: Watching Sophia ride a horse like any city girl would (read: bouncing up and down like a giggling maniac).
Low point: Being shown Scott’s face so much you incessantly notice his need for lip balm.
Best digested with: A mixed bag of Lindt balls, Pretzels, and Ginger Beer.
Podcast: What More Could There Really Be? Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston
Looking on at Hillsong Church with its Grammy-winning worship team, and an international congregation of over 100,000 people, it’s hard to imagine what ‘more’ could be ahead of this Sydney-born megachurch.