Don’t be fooled by its glossy poster, The Longest Ride isn’t your typical modern romance.
Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, the film centers on Luke and Sophia (Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson), a couple trying to bridge their radically different paths. When they rescue an elderly man named Ira (Alan Alda) from a car wreck, they find themselves connected to a story that parallels their own.
As Sophia grows close to Ira, she learns (as told through flashbacks) of his relationship with his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Much of the film’s emotional weight rests on the performances of Alda, Chaplin and Jack Huston who portrays a younger Ira.
As Alda explains, the work of Sparks and screenwriter Craig Bolotin made bringing such a complex character to life an effortless pursuit.
"If you have genuine moments that you could believe in, that you’re supposed to be emotional about, that makes it a lot easier. If you’re called on to have emotions that spring from the fountain of the writer’s head but not from reality or life or some kind of authenticity - then it’s harder.”
In one particularly harrowing moment, Ida recalls waking up to find his wife has died. For Alda, who has been married fifty eight years (to photographer Arlene Alda), there was a personal connection to the scene.
“I’ve never had that happen to me and my wife but it’s easy imagine and it hits you like a ton of bricks. It doesn’t require any research.”
Having fled Nazi persecution, Ruth longs to mend the horrors she experienced by raising a family. She’s shattered when a neglected child she’s cared for is taken from her. For Chaplin, the poignant moment in the film called for imagination.
"I can relate to it but I don’t have the experience personality. It’s not something I’ve thought about in my life.”
When Ira is first introduced, he’s bitter and fragile but as he recounts meeting and marrying Ruth, it restores his spirit. This was also an aspect of the character that Alda connected with.
“Ira has learned how to be the person he is partly from his life with Ruth. I think this happens to a lot of men and it certainly happened to me in my own personal life... It’s one of the reasons he misses her so much because it’s a real part of him that’s gone.”
As Chaplin points out, Ira and Ruth’s story offers a powerful message about relationships.
“That’s one of the nicest things about their relationship is that they learn from each other and that they make each other happier and stronger. It’s a key ingredient to coexisting in love… they make each other more themselves in this story.”
The Longest Ride is in theaters April 10, 2015.