Articles: Tillman Takes on ‘The Longest Ride’




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Samantha Ofole-Prince

Director George Tillman, Jr - photo by Michael Tackett

Nicholas Sparks’ romantic novels have been the inspiration for many big-screen adaptations.  Several have been adapted to films, including: “A Walk to Remember,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and “The Notebook.”

"The Longest Ride" is the latest to hit the big screen and is helmed by director George Tillman, Jr. who directed the romantic comedy “Soul Food,” the action-drama “Men of Honor” and the biopic “Notorious.” A good old-fashioned romantic flick, it follows Ira and Ruth, Luke and Sophia – two couples separated by time and age who have little in common until a series of unexpected events align their paths.

“Being that there are several Nicholas Sparks films already made, I wanted to bring something different,” shares Tillman. “We have two stories and both of the characters are at a crossroads. One couple learn from the other and it’s very universal and everyone can relate to that.”

Scott Eastwood (Clint Eastwood’s son) and Britt Robertson play Luke and Sophia whose lives couldn’t be further apart. Scott’s a cowboy and a professional bullfighter and Sophia’s a university senior about to embark on an internship with a prestigious New York art gallery. When the two meet during Scott’s bull riding event, sparks fly.

(L-r) Scott Eastwood, Britt  Robertson and director George Tillman Jr.
Photo by Michael Tackett

While on their first date, they stumble across a burning car and end up befriending the occupant, ninety-one year old Ira Levinson (played by Alan Alda). Ira is also on a life-changing course. Having lost his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin) eight years earlier, he was on a journey to Black Mountain College, an art colony where he bought Ruth her first painting.  As Sophia visits him during his hospital stay, she and Ira develop a bond. He shares his life story with her (done through flashbacks) and Sophia discovers just how much the two couples have in common in spite of the age difference. By sharing his life and wisdom, lra in turn helps Luke and Sophia discover their true values and the real meaning of their love.

It’s a thoughtful, emotionally rich film about enduring love and the sacrifices couples must make for the sake of love. There are persuasive performances, most notably from Oona Chaplin who delights as Ruth.

“I am always attracted to characters who have very strong objectives and goals and stories about surviving the conflicts and the issues that come in a relationship,” adds Tillman who also directed the film “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.”

In addition to being a tearjerker, “The Longest Ride” is an entertaining human story that explores relationships from many angles. A beautifully shot melodrama, it strikes the right romantic tone. Kleenex is a necessity for this one.

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