The Longest Ride

George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) adapts a romance novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), and though Tillman doesn’t quite elevate the maudlin material into serious drama, the result is uncommonly sensitive. This runs longer than any previous Sparks adaptation, but for good reason: Tillman often lets scenes play out at a relaxed pace, offsetting the contrived plotting and allowing the characters to conform to the actors’ personalities. An art student from New Jersey (Britt Robertson) bonds with a North Carolina rodeo cowboy (Scott Eastwood) after they save an old Jewish man from a car wreck (a nicely understated Alan Alda). As she helps the old man recuperate, he tells her the story of his long, happy marriage, inspiring her to be more romantic. This is fairly naive in its depictions of Jewish life and modern art, though not offensively so; one never doubts that Tillman’s heart is in the right place.