Rating: The Longest Ride is what happens when a studio exec sees The Notebook and Dear John, and then goes You see that? Do it again the same, but different. And Im not sure if Im making a scathing attack on the film there or actually getting right to the heart of its conception. Either way, its an utterly pointless exercise that can only really exist because of some strange cabal between 20th Century Fox and Kleenex. On a basic level, this is exactly what you expect from a Nicholas Sparks adaptation; there's ample soft focus and piano music employed to pull on your heartstrings, while the men make romantic gesture after romantic gesture that would just look creepy in the real world. I'm obviously not the target audience for this sort of thing, but even with that in mind it's hard to not roll your eyes at the blatant emotional manipulation. The story is flawed at its core. In short, art student Sophia meets bull rider Luke and while they um and ah over a life together, they learn from an old man, Ira, about his one love, Ruth, whom he wrote letters to every day, even when they were married. That sounds fair, but the letters are only there to add to the romanticism; their content reads more like the diary of an obsessed stalker - actually sending these to a woman is a shortcut to a restraining order. Nothing about the movie rings true. The characters are hollow, with contradictory traits thrown up just to get the plot to its inevitable (and more contrived than usual) conclusion. There's a singular plot point that comes out of left field and for a moment looks to be providing some real emotional resonance, but it's so poorly handled it barely registers. A particularly odd story element is an attempt to draw parallels between Sophia and Ruth; they both love art (even if the extent of the film's insight into it is that modern abstract art is just squiggles on a canvas) and are allegedly from immigrant families (something Sophia brings up once and is wholly unbelievable). But while the film wants to champion an eternal timelessness to true love, it shies away from actually defining either woman beyond broad traits. The vagueness of personality is incredibly purposeful, reducing the female characters to blank slates for the audience to project themselves onto, imagining themselves involved with an adonis with a dangerous job but a heart of gold or a loving husband so understanding he never once stands in the way of their dreams. The film isn't really interested in telling a romantic story rather than offering a fantasy for the audience to inhabit for two hours. It's so cynically realised, with no real effort - an opening scene spends the time to show how to wear a cowboy hat, but thanks to lazy continuity it flops around on the character's head in the same scene - that means it's just impossible to get behind. This is one of those movies actors take just to keep the coffers full, but its stars will have to do something incredible to repair the damage done here; Scott Eastwood may look as good in a cowboy hat as his father, but he brings none of Clint's charisma, while Britt Robertson offers up yet another lacklustre performance after last month's Tomorrowland. Through all this, what boggles is how gawpingly self-serious the whole thing is. Maybe it would have been too far to use the title for innuendo, but The Longest Ride never has any joy unless it's a clearly signalled key character moment. It's a film all about the trials of love, but offers up none of the silly fun that juxtaposes them. One for extreme Nicholas Sparks fans only. Did you like The Longest Ride? Or do you agree with this review? Have your say down in the comments.