By Aubrey Klein
Spoiler alert: even though Nicholas Sparks is insanely predictable, there are still spoilers of “The Longest Ride” ahead.
I admit it. I went to see the new Nicholas Sparks movie, “The Longest Ride.” And I cried—like a freaking baby. I had to actively resist hyperventilating in the theater—crying silently is really difficult—and hid my face with my snot-stained sleeve as we left. My eyes were still puffy the next morning.
After I got home and comforted myself with copious amounts of chocolate, I questioned why I had willingly put myself in a situation that would make me sad enough to cry.
Going to see tragic romantic movies, especially in a theater, is a somewhat sadistic act. I knew that I would probably be brought to tears: ugly, red-faced, snotty tears. I knew because I cry at lots of movies: “The Notebook,” “Up” and as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, “The Lorax.” Yes you read that right, “The Lorax.”
Movies based on Sparks’ books, and the source material they’re derived from, are not high art. The movies won’t be winning any awards for cinematography, and the books are maybe only a few rungs above romance novels with Fabio on the cover.
As an English major and film studies minor, I would like to think that I have at least some good taste in literature and film. And yet, I don’t know the last time any sort of entertainment made me that emotional.
My sensitive reaction probably says something about me, but I also think it has a lot to say about Sparks. My experience and reaction to “The Longest Ride” showed me that these inevitably tear-jerking romantic movies are not the cultural sludge that many people believe them to be—they can actually be a very cathartic experience.
There are two stories being told in Sparks’ new movie: One is the contemporary romance of bull-riding champion Luke and art history student Sophia. The other is the story of an elderly man named Ira who befriends Sophia and recounts how he fell in love with his late wife Ruth, their life together and the trials they faced along the way.
Sparks really has a lot to say about love, and his message that love conquers all is pretty profound, albeit cliché. In the movie, Ruth, who has always wanted a big family, has to come to terms with the fact that her husband is infertile after an injury sustained in World War II. At one point, she can no longer tolerate their childless life together, so she leaves.
Ira lets her go because he loves and cares for her so much that he only wants her to have a happy life, even if that life no longer includes him. Luckily, she realizes that being in love with Ira, even without children, is better than not loving him at all so she returns to him.
As cheesy as it sounds, this movie made me reflect on love and my own relationship. Ira and his wife were a true embodiment of lifelong love, and many of the things they went through, although fictional, embodied the real trials and emotions faced in modern love.
I think it would be really hard for me to do what Ira did in letting his true love walk away, even if it was for the best. It also took a lot of courage on Ruth’s part to give up one of her lifelong dreams of having kids in order to hold on to her relationship with Ira. It truly made me consider the lengths that I would go to for the one I love. Cue the waterworks.
In true Sparks fashion, an elderly person has to die—two in this movie actually. That’s where I really lost it. Why must you do this to me Nicholas Sparks, why? At this stage, I can’t truly comprehend what it’s like to spend your entire life with the one you love, and then, one day for them to be gone. It made me think about my grandpa, who died several years ago, and how my grandma lives every day without the love of her life.
Lifelong relationships like Ruth and Ira’s, or like my grandparents’, remind us that profound love is still possible and showcase the extreme happiness that reward those who work towards it.
Many people may continue to look down upon Nicholas Sparks as mere diversion. However, his movie was a more moving and soul-searching experience than I thought it would be in that it unearthed some real emotions that I didn’t know were there. It also gave me permission to cry, which I think is a really important thing we should do for ourselves every once in a while.
Crying is a release of emotion you may not have known you needed, and it can really cleanse your soul. While my tears were induced by the emotional rollercoaster that is “The Longest Ride,” they also allowed me to identify things that were troubling me and let them go. I think that’s part of the reason we go back to these movies, even when we know they will make us wail and moan in sadness—they remind us that we can feel.