June Butler sits in the front seat for Emer Reynolds’ debut feature film.

Joyride is a fun-filled caper filmed on location across the hills and rugged valleys of Kerry, in pursuit of those most elusive states of being: redemption and salvation. Director Emer Reynolds, along with writer Ailbhe Keogan, have packed together a most heart-warming story in an unforgettable romp – part coming-of-age, part buddy movie. 

Fourteen-year-old Mully (Charlie Reid), has had to grow up fast. Serving drinks in a dimly lit bar would not be his preferred way to spend time but he has no say in the matter. The event has been organised to fund a charity. At a signal from his father, (played with oily menace by Loclann Ó Mearáin), he jumps up on stage to perform a passionate rendition of Minnie the Moocher. As Mully sings, he sees his father leave the bar and return, having stolen the night’s takings. Mully is unhappy at being used as a diversionary tactic to commit petty crimes such as this. His moral code kicks into gear, and deciding to take matters into his own hands, Mully steals the money back. Running for safety, he exits the bar and jumps into a waiting taxi. Impressively (!), Mully knows how to drive, even though he can barely see over the steering wheel. As he hits the road, suddenly a baby’s wail emanates from behind him. Mully looks around to see a sleeping mother and new-born infant on the rear seat. He releases a string of invectives when it becomes apparent a charge of kidnapping is going to be added to the rap-sheet. 

Joy (Olivia Coleman) has just given birth but refuses to bond with her baby or even give her a name, instead devising a plan to give the child away. She wakes up panic stricken as Mully drives off, careering across the countryside. Enraged and horrified at the unfolding drama, first interactions between the pair are tense and fraught with anger. Joy is determined to carry out her plan but has not accounted for Mully’s intervention. 

Director Emer Reynolds holds a steady course as she navigates through the story. It would be easy to allow saccharine corniness take hold, but while Reynolds is resolute in giving free rein to emotion, she wisely holds more mawkish elements in check. As tempting as it is to grant ‘awww’ moments into the narrative, Reynolds resists and it shows in the quality of the film. Mully and Joy’s relationship is allowed evolve naturally – testing each other’s boundaries occurs frequently in early stages of the film, but the affiliation between the two grows and matures as the tale progresses.  

The key outcome for a coming-of-age movie is how main characters, usually a young adult, learn and evolve through mutual interaction. What is interesting about Joyride is how both Mully and Joy are connected through their life experiences up to that point, regardless of gender or age. A ‘divil may care’ teen boy and mature woman who both have issues that need to be dealt with, becomes an ode to personal development as both parties arrive at the same positive point (at the same time), in learning about life and its many (many) pitfalls. The ‘buddy movie’ component is a slightly harder ‘sell’ but Reynolds nonetheless, ably manages to create a believable relationship between the two. 

Olwen Fouéré as Sideline Sue fills in storytelling gaps and completes the chronicle. 

Casting was total perfection. Kudos to Olivia Coleman for her Irish accent. All too often it rings hollow or is poorly executed. Not in this instance. Coleman lived and breathed her accent which sounded completely authentic (at least to this Irish ear!). Charlie Reid as Mully stole the show. Apparently he was chosen from 1500 hopefuls – such attention to getting it right shows. Charlie Reid is one to watch. 

Joyride is a treat and audiences will relate to every tender second, every element of whimsical synergy, and every symbiotic piece of intercommunication.

Joyride is in Irish cinemas from 29th July 2022.


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