The movie opens to Luke (Scott Eastward) riding a bull and falling off of it; the commentators seem concerned as his fall seemed unsafe. Then the movie cuts to Sophia, a young college student at Wake Forest College. She is in her room at her sorority house with her best friend handing her a pair of boots and begging her to come to a bull riding competition. Her friend calls her boring and tells her that she can't spend her whole life studying. She relenting goes to the competition and watches Luke (and several other riders) ride the Bulls. Luke is attempting to make a comeback at the championship after his fall. He rides the bull for the required amount of time and dismounts. As he waves to the crowd the bull charges in his direction, so he heads to the rails, in his rush his hat falls into the lap of Sophia, and he tells her to keep it. Later that night while everyone is drunk at the bar, Sophia heads outside and runs into Luke, who recognizes his hat and says hi. They are both about to make their way inside for a drink, but Sophia runs into her friend who is noticeably drunk and feels sick. They all agree it's best for Sophia to take her friend home. Luke takes Sophia's number.
Luke calls Sophia, but she doesn't answer because she has an upcoming art internship in New York after she graduates in 2 months and doesn't think it worthwhile to pursue a relationship. Her friend (who was drunk in the bar that night) convinces her to call him as all the sorority girls would like to be with a handsome bull rider like that. He takes her out to a secluded lake and brings some delicious barbecue take out for them to eat. On the ride home, though it's pouring outside, Luke notices some missing rails on a bridge, reverses and run towards a car- It's on fire, and an elderly passenger is inside. As he is rescuing the old man, he keeps yelling about saving a box in the front seat. Sophia grabs the box, and they take him to the hospital. Sophia agrees to stay behind with the elderly gentleman and they part ways as Sophia explained to him earlier that she won't be in town for much longer. While in the waiting room, Sophia opens the box and discovers a lot of letters- she opens one and find that it's addressed from a young Ira to his late wife, Ruth. When he's out of surgery, Sophia introduces herself and hands him the box. The old man is giving trouble to eat his food so she says she'll read him one of the letters (as his eyesight is not a good as it used to be) if he eats. While eating we cut to a scene with a young Ira being introduced to a young immigrant Ruth from Austria, at his parents store- he is at a loss for words.
He observes her around town but doesn't approach her out of shyness. He finally summons up the courage to approach her with a rose in his hand, but sees another young man talking to her and so throws away the Rose as he walks off, but she sees him as he walks away. Another day at a joint gathering she approaches him and wonders why he hasn't said hi even though he always stares at her, she said it’s a shame he threw away the rose. Sophia asks old Ira if she would like her to read another letter but as he is crying he asks her to do it another time. Sophia comes back to visit old Ira regularly and so the rest of the movie is intertwined with scenes of Ira and Ruth and the present. Luke continues to ride bulls and is shown throughout the movie in a series of competitions climbing the ranks, and his aim is to be number one. Driving home one day, he notices a picture in his car of young Ira and Ruth and so goes back to the hospital to return the picture to the old man, where he runs into Sophia. As he turns to leave Sophia asks him to go out sometime and he accepts. He tells her he’ll take her bull riding, but she agrees to ride a horse.
They go home to his ranch and after a day of horse back riding she dares him to a race but before he can stop her she runs right into the lake hidden behind the grass. He takes her inside for her to change and have a shower. As she is entering the bathroom, he offers her soup when she gets out. While undressing the both notice that the door is slightly open, so she takes off her clothes slowly making eye contact with him. He joins her, and they have sex in the shower. Ruth and Ira continue courting enjoying dates on the beach and at art galleries. One day she pulls him into a hotel lobby and shows him a picture of art and explains how beautiful it is and her interpretation of it. He is also shown having dinner with her family one night where we learn that art is looked upon highly in her family. He proposes to her one day on the beach, and she says that she wants a large family. It is then shown that he is called off to serve in the war; they are both sad, but she promises to wait for him til he returns. While in the middle of the battlefield one of his fellow wounded soldiers calls for help. Many of his colleagues are hiding in a ditch as shots and bombs are being fired, so they see helping him a suicide mission. Ira decides to help against the warning of a colleague. He grabs the wounded soldier but is shot on the way even though they both make it to safety.
Next he is shown in the hospital, and while he is still alive he is sent home but the reason is not yet known. Upon arriving home he is shown outside Ruth's home but doesn't have the courage to enter. She approaches him in a diner saying that his mom called to tell Ruth that he has been home for a few days, and she is upset as he hasn't called her. She demands to know why he won't talk to her as she waited all that time for him and wanted to marry him. He reveals that the injury left him unable to have kids and said that he can't give her the family that she wants so she should continue without him. She says that she loves him and will marry him regardless. On one of their dates he takes her to an open house and asks her if she likes it, she says yes and he reveals the keys in his hands and inside the house he reveals the painting she loved from the hotel lobby. They hang it in the house.
Sophia and Luke are now in a relationship. While talking to his mom one day at home, she reveals that his father was also a bull rider who passed away several years ago. Luke rides Bulls as a way to keep the ranch and his mom afloat. Sophia's boss calls her and tells her that the New York art dealer will be in Charlotte that weekend and asks if she'd be interested in meeting him, she says yes. On leaving to meet the art curator she receives a call from Luke's friend and finds out that he took a rough fall and is in the hospital. She calls her boss to let her know she can't make it this weekend. While at the hospital, she hears the doctor warn Luke not to ride again, as he was warned against riding after his serious injury (for which he has a scar on his chest) at the beginning of the movie. Sophia is concerned as she cares about Luke, and doesn't want him to harm himself, upon being discharged from the hospital she assumes he will stop riding bulls but when he tells her he won't she breaks up with him as she can't be with him if he is harming himself unnecessarily especially after she called her boss to cancel both the meeting this weekend and her upcoming internship so they could be together. His mom says that he is making a mistake letting her go as she is the rest of his life. When he explains that he does it for his mom, she says she will make it without the ranch and that the only person he is doing it for is himself.
Sophia meets with Ira at his home as he has been discharged from the hospital. She learns that adoption was not as easy in those days so Ruth took a job as a school teacher so she could be around kids. Though it is shown that it still isn't enough for her. She notices a kid asleep in class one day and it is obvious that he needs a bath, she visits his home to find and impoverished half brother cares for him and neither he nor his wife care much for the boy. Ruth takes extra care of the boy bringing him home after school and feeding him some days. Ruth and Ira become attached to the boy and look into adopting him, but his half-brother says no. She cries and says there must be another way, but Ira says that his lawyer said there was no other way. This is a small town, and his brother is legal guardian so there is no way they will win in court. Upon bringing the boy to his family for the last time, she tells him that he can be anything he wants to be a farmer, a scientist a lawyer. Whatever he wants to be as he is a smart young boy. This loss and Iras level headed approach to the situation is too much for Ruth as she considered the boy a part of their family. She packs her bag and leaves as she wants children too badly. Ira cries but loves her enough to want her happy and so let's her leave. She comes back a few days later, and they grown old together, continuing to collect art and have adventures until one morning in their old age Ruth doesn't wake up. After her funeral, Ira says that a woman showed up to his door, she is the wife of the young man Daniel, and they wanted to adopt. She reveals that he has passed on but was not only a teacher but professor at University College of London; she returned to America after he died. He was inspired by Iras wife who told him as a child that he could be whatever he wanted to be. Words that clearly struck a chord with him and so upon reading Ruth's name in the obituary she felt compelled to visit. She hands him a framed portrait. While the portrait is not shown, a picture of Ruth and Ira stuck to it is. This is the same picture Ira had with him the night of the accident.
Cut to present day, when Luke is ranked number 5 in the world and is competing for the championship. From the hat pick, it is shown that he will ride the number 1 bull for the championship. His hand is still shaky from his accident, but he rides the bull and the entire time he is looking in the audience to the empty seat where Sophia usually sits. He rides the bull long enough and is now ranked number 1 rider in the world. Sophia receives a call one day and is notified that Ira has died, she starts crying but is invited to an invitation only auction for his art the following week. Luke also receives an invitation in the mail. Apparently, Ruth has an eye for art, and amassed a large collection throughout their lifetime, which Ira took down after she died because the painting were a permanent reminder of her and too painful to bear. They have Warhols and other paintings by famous artists in their collection as Ruth was great at identifying young talent.
Luke arrives late and stands to the back of the room while the first picture goes to auction, it is a picture of Ruth painted by Daniel. The auctioneer offers $1000 with no takers and so goes down to $800 with still no takers. At $600 Luke purchases the photo, and Sophia is surprised to see him. The auction is on hold until he finalizes the purchase, and in the other room, Sophia says hi. He tells her that all thought he wanted was to be the #1 bull rider, but the entire time he was riding the bull, he was thinking of her. He realizes that she is his life, and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. They kiss and can't keep their hands off each other til the curator calls them up. The auction was put on hold as Ira's lawyer reveals that the entire collection now belongs to the owner of the picture of Ruth. He reads a letter from Ira explaining that Ruth was his heart and his entire life belonged to her so the entire collection will go along with the painting of the love of his life Ruth. Luke is unsure what the hysteria breaking out in the room is about as people start asking him how much he wants for the pictures. Sophia grabs his hand and explains that he is now a millionaire.
Sophia is then shown at a art gallery surrounded by Iras pictures and is shown locking the door to the room and jumping into a car with Luke. The building she left is the Ira and Ruth Levinson museum.
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