Irrespective of which director is at the helm, there is something so distinctive about Nicholas Sparks’ novels adapted to the big screen. They share a similar set of sensibilities, set in front of the hazy, idealistic North Carolina backdrop, easily defined and grouped into this saccharine world. If you like this brand of film, you’ll be sure to enjoy The Longest Ride, as George Tillman Jr.’s drama remains very much in tune with its predecessors. Conversely, if you aren’t particularly keen on this franchise, then you might just want to avoid. So basically, whatever I say now is unlikely to make any difference. Sorry.

When Sophia (Britt Robertson) is persuaded by her friend Marcia (Melissa Benoist) to head along to a bull riding competition, her apprehensions are eased somewhat when she meets the star of the show, and former champion, Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood). The pair hit it off instantly, though with the former on the brink of moving to New York to pursue a career in the arts, it doesn’t seem there’s much point in entering in to anything serious. But when they save the life of the elderly gentleman Ira (Alan Alda), his inspiring story of true love – concerning himself as a youngster (portrayed by Jack Huston) and his partner Ruth (Oona Chaplin), proves that sometimes love is worth making compromises for.

There is actually a rather poignant element that derives from Ira’s story, as we deviate away from the romantic narrative to explore the notion of nostalgia and regret, looking back over a whole life story and revelling in moments that may have seemed trivial once, but are now those you long to recreate. However whenever it seems like the film may be veering down a more intriguing path, we return back to our monotonous bull rider. There’s not many layers to the role of Luke, epitomised in the way he perceives art. When going to an exhibition with Sophia, he claims it’s all “bullshit” and he can’t figure out why a squiggly line on a white canvas would garner so much attention and demand such a high price. How it can have any deeper meaning? He wonders. Pot, kettle, black, mate.

Meanwhile, Robertson impresses, but she feels wasted in this production, and at times, somewhat unnatural being so sincere and mawkish. In Tomorrowland there was a certain attitude about her demeanour, equipped with a sarcasm that made for a likeable protagonist. We see the occasional shade of that in The Longest Ride, but not enough. Which is emblematic of a wider issue – the film is far too earnest, when sometimes a more tongue-in-cheek approach would be favourable. It’s the only way to excuse films of this ilk, if they can ridicule themselves it let’s them off the hook. This, however, is as stony-faced as they come.

Finally, the film is simply too long too. When dealing with romantic dramas of this variety, it’s baffling as to why it surpasses the two hour mark. Talking about The Longest Ride – it feels we’ve just been on it. And it wasn’t particularly fun, either.