Emer Reynolds’s new film starring Olivia Colman and Charlie Reid is a heartfelt dramedy, that is unfortunately overpowered by a disorganized story.
Joyride tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy named Mully (Charlie Reid), who has recently lost his mother to cancer. After Mully’s father steals the money from the collection jar at the funeral, Mully takes off with the money and steals a taxi, in an attempt to keep his father from using it for his own selfish purposes. However, he soon discovers a single mother, Joy (Olivia Colman) asleep in the backseat of the taxi with her baby. The two agree to help each other get to their final destinations so Mully can stop his father from wasting his mother’s hospice money, and Joy can hand off her baby to a friend who intends to adopt the child.
This film has a lot of heart, and great performances by the two leads, but all of the strong aspects are unfortunately overshadowed by a disorganized story. While the characters of Joy and Mully aren’t meant to mirror each other in a lot of ways – Mully is deeply missing his mother, Joy is wishing she never became one – there’s a shift in dynamics between the two that flip flops between heartfelt and uncomfortable. Joy consoles Mully when he hits a fox on the drive, and does the hard deed of running the fox over to put it out of its misery. She lets him openly discuss his complicated feelings over his father without being dismissive. In turn, he looks after her baby effortlessly on the road (citing his innate parental instincts on having a younger sibling at home), and convinces her that she’s more fit for motherhood than she maybe realizes.
But that also includes scenes in which the thirteen-year-old boy teaches Joy how to breastfeed, which despite its heartfelt intentions, feels a bit off. While it’s touching to watch the maternal relationship develop between Joy and Mully, it works best when the reliance is balanced between the two. Yet, it unfortunately focuses too much on Mully, to the point where it feels at times more like he is parenting Joy, rather than the other way around. And, despite its tight 90 minute runtime, the second act begins to drag a bit.
Which is not to say that the chemistry between Colman and Reid is not palpable and sweet. Colman is giving an honest and vulnerable performance, adding the perfect level of humor and vulnerability to her performance. She is as quick-witted and generally flawless as one may expect from Colman, but the scenes in which we learn why she is so hesitant towards motherhood (which are rooted in her traumatic past with her own mother) are raw and heartbreaking. This movie can be added to the long list of examples of why it is essentially impossible not to root for Olivia Colman. Reid also makes an impressive film debut, handling the heavier and more emotionally-charged scenes with a level of maturity that, like his character, exceeds his age.
While there are many great elements at play with Joyride, the flaws in the film ultimately keep it from ever crossing the line from good to great. While Colman and Reid are doing their best to sell the film, its slightly disorganized story ultimately hinder it.
Should be Considered: None
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters, PVOD
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett