22 June 2024
A Scene From Joyride starring Olivia Colman

Film Review – Joyride (2022)

We didn’t see the memo, but it looks like this is Road Trip Movie Week. There’s a double whammy of them – Hit The Road (more on that soon) and Joyride – and, of the two, it’s the latter that’s more likely to catch your eye. That’s down to the pulling power of its lead, the near-national treasure, Olivia Colman. But sometimes even the most stellar performer can’t save a story that’s going nowhere.

We first meet Joy (Colman) fast asleep in the back of a cab, accompanied by a newborn baby and totally oblivious that the taxi has been stolen by teenager Mully (Charlie Reid), who’s on the run from his dodgy father (Lochlann O’Mearain). The boy has stolen some money raised for the cancer charity that had looked after his late mother, simply to make sure that his dad doesn’t use it to pay off his own debts. The odd couple find themselves on the road, with Joy intending to give away her baby for adoption and then go on holiday and Mully trying to put as much distance as possible between him and his father. But, as is the way with road trips, they find themselves facing their own issues and developing an unexpected bond.

The strained play on words built into the title immediately flags up what’s to come – a film that sticks close to the conventions of odd couples and road trips. Life lessons, including learning to compromise, coming to terms with the past and the development of a bond more parental than Mully has ever known in his real family are all there, and more. It’s almost a checklist approach, making sure that no tradition is left unturned. Initially, its Irish setting promises some humour, whimsy even, but that’s soon set aside in favour of something more contemplative. And, throughout, the narrative determinedly dodges incongruities such as a middle aged woman who doesn’t think twice about having a teenager as her driver and their astonishing ability to evade arrest.

What the film really wants to be is an examination of parental relationships, maternal in particular, as well as questioning the convention that natural parents know best when it comes to bringing up their children. They’re substantial issues, but painted with such broad brush strokes that the film’s attempts at something thought provoking are soon buried underneath yet another convention – old fashioned melodrama. The sad thing is that the cast give it their all. Colman is great as Joy and wonderfully self-deprecating about her name – “I know, false advertising” – in a role with faint echoes of The Lost Daughter. And, as her partner on the trip, Charlie Reid holds his own as the “old head on young shoulders” Mully, who unexpectedly teaches his companion a thing or two about breastfeeding in one of the film’s more touching scenes.

But even their commitment and appeal can’t prevent this from being a bumpy ride, one that struggles with combining humour and a more poignant tone. Such an engaging pair of leads deserves better.

★★


Drama | Cert: 15 | UK cinemas from 29 July | Vertigo Releasing | Dir. Emer Reynolds | Olivia Colman, Charlie Reid, Lochlann O’Mearain, Aislin McGuckin


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