Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 19 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 3; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 4.
Our star rating (1-5): 3.5
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Critics far more sophisticated than I seem to enjoy savaging any movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. To them they are maudlin, cloying, naïve, predictable, and a lot of other bad things that viewers ought to avoid if they want to be considered highbrow. Even though the new film stars Clint Eastwood’s son Scott, this film is no exception. And yet, as with most of the other Sparks films, this will probably draw a large audience because they like attractive characters (mostly white) who embody wholesome values. Although I have some qualms about the plot resolution, I find myself enjoying reflecting back on this film.
How could I not like a hero who says that love is having to make sacrifices? And this time there are not one but two romances, the secondary one being between two Jewish lovers. Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), a senior majoring in art history at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University, thinks she has her life plotted out, with a promised internship at a NYC gallery. Then there is a cute meeting at a rodeo with Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) where his 8-second-ride on a bull lends its name to the film. A champion rider, he has been out of the circuit for a year because of an injury. He continues to risk his health in the ring in order to save the family ranch presided over by his mother. Luke and Sophia go on a night picnic by a scenic lake, but Sophia is sure that this will be the end because of her plans to head for the big city. However, on the way home they encounter a car wreck. Luke pulls the elderly driver out just in time before flames engulf it. Its driver Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) mumbles something about a box, and Sophie grabs a wicker box from the car just in time.
You probably have guessed that the box contains love letters, lots and lots of them. When she visits Ira at the hospital she begins to read some of the letters that stretch back to the beginning of the Second World War. They describe his meeting with the lovely daughter of European refugees Ruth (Oona Chaplin), their courtship, and long separation when he was shipped off to war. (The young Ira played by Jack Huston.)
Luke, of course, shows up at the hospital also to check on Ira, and from thereon scenes of their growing relationship are interspersed with those of Ira and Ruth’s, which include Ira’s being wounded in a place that spoils any possibility of their having the large family that Ruth wants so ardently. Because of her dream he tries to break off their relationship, but she will have none of this, her love for him being strong enough that she can abandon her dream. During their married years they find a common bond in their love for modern art, so, in effect, their growing collection of paintings by Pollock, Warhol, and other 20th Century masters, are a substitute for children. The Levinson collection will eventually connect with the lovers of the next generation in an interesting way.
My qualm is that when Luke and Sophia show that, like Ira and Ruth, they are willing to make major sacrifices for each other, the resolution doesn’t seem to be very realistic. Luke is an unsophisticated country boy who earlier, after looking at some of the art gallery’s framed lines, blotches, and squibbles that demand big bucks, says to Sophia, “I think there’s more bullshit here than where I work.” (An apt statement that expresses my own feelings when looking at certain examples of abstract art.) Can this relationship last? Well, in the world of Nicholas Sparks, love will find a way. At a time when our theaters are filled with so many inane comedies and nihilistic action and horror thrillers, this is a good message to take away from the theater.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the May 2015 issue of Visual Parables.