Nicholas Sparks has made a fortune off American nostalgia.
His books are written on the assumption that, on some fundamental level, we all want to live in a different time, with different values. We long for something better, or at least for something extraordinary.
Some of his books and subsequently successful film adaptations have been set in the past. The bestseller and box-office hit “The Notebook” takes place in the 1940s. While others are set in the present, the characters are endowed with anachronistic temperaments.
The latest Sparks film, “The Longest Ride,” which released in cinemas April 10 2015 attempts to combine both tropes (the past and present-day characters who long for the past), for double the nostalgia and, one imagines, double the ticket sales.
Ira Levinson is in trouble. Ninety-one years old and stranded and injured after a car crash, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together - how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can't possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.
A few miles away, at a local bull-riding event, a Wake Forest College senior's life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death - loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he's keeping doesn't destroy it first.
Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.