Film scores

Soundtrack review: The longest ride (Mark Isham – 2015)

“The longest ride” is a story that centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Mark Isham wrote the score and my relationship with his music has been a little strange. A few years ago I was collecting his works like crazy because they struck a chord inside me but when I revisited his compositions for “Mark Isham month” last year I found the connection had faded a bit.

There is a country / cowboy twist in the story and somehow this subtle new dimension makes the music sound better. The raw guitar inserts and the small motifs that evoke to me the sunset off a day spent outside wrangling cattle make Mark Isham’s usual musings seem a bit more alive. I can connect with the questionable sadness that shrouds the notes. The electric guitar also makes me think of Gustavo Santaolalla’s music. A cue like “Picnic” could have been heard on “Babel” or “Brokeback mountain”.

There is little of the usual Mark Isham in this score. His lush, jazzy and quiet melodies have taken a back seat to a light but very enjoyable brand of reflective music, reminiscent more of Thomas Newman as a general mood. The cues are short and always end with a question mark. Each of them is like a passing thought which may or may not stick. Some of the thoughts you will remember others will be but a shadow. There’s rarely a louder moment in “The longest ride” which feels more like a long drift on a calm and slow moving river or a lazy walk on a long road guarded by trees. You can relax and reflect while listening to it. It will not impose and it will not challenge you much. It will just make you feel good.

A quiet and peaceful composition like this is very suitable for a calm summer afternoon when you need to unwind. There are feelings in “The longest ride” and they are toned down and delivered in small and manageable doses: sadness, melancholy, longing, joy…. All of them sprinkled throughout a beautiful and heartfelt score. I need a score like this every once in a while. I need to be reminded how simple and beautiful film music can sound like and Mark Isham does just that.

Cue rating:

Total minutes of excellence:

Album excellence:

Highlights:

In the Saddle

Date Ends Early

Calling Luke

Nice Walk Home

Proposal

Beach Frolic

War

Ruth’s Struggle

Making Up

Black Mountain

Daniel and Ruth

Childless

How I Love You Now

Growing Old Toge

Postcards from Ira

The Longest Ride

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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