Director: Emer Reynolds
Talent: Olivia Colman, Charlie Reid, Lochlann Ó Mearáin
Release Date: July 29
“It’s forwards I’m going,” proclaims Olivia Colman’s Joy numerous times across Joyride, Emer Reynolds’ latest directorial feature and first since Songs for While I’m Away, the documentary from 2020 which explored Phil Lynott’s life and career. Joy’s defiance is asserted aloud for no one’s benefit but her own. “I’m not going back,” she protests, her focus firmly fixed on the road ahead. When we meet Joy, asleep in the back of a taxi en route to the airport, she’s desperately trying to escape her past – geographically and genealogically – while faced with a huge decision that will shape her future. When her plan is sidetracked by Mully, an endearing pre-teen (who has recently suffered the loss of his adoring mother) with an ability to successfully turn his hand at anything from crooning in his family pub, driving with more confidence and skill than someone twice his age and pacifying newborns, the pair become reluctant companions and unlikely accomplices. Their journey together, through the beautifully plush Kerry countryside, is enlightening and entertaining. Thankfully, the dynamic between the duo is closer to a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reluctant kinship than a Harold and Maude partnership in how they come to lend support to one another across the story.
Emerging talent Charlie Reid gives a promising performance as Mully, his chemistry with Colman makes for a compelling watch. And while Colman’s attempt at an Irish accent may not be convincing, her portrayal of Joy – a woman struggling to come to terms with unexpected motherhood, whilst reliving the actions of her recently deceased mother – is at its finest when she delves into the depths of her character’s vulnerabilities. Scattered amongst the complex themes addressed, this buddy-meets-road movie tries hard to bring comic relief to lighten the overall tone. Ailbhe Keogan’s screenplay, however, would have benefited greatly from refraining from alleviating the central strife in both Joy and Mully’s respective lives with over the top set-pieces. The inclusion of those instances are frustrating given that Joy’s story is not one frequently depicted on our screens, particularly the effects on her emotional and physical health. It’s in the latter half of the film when its impact and nuance comes to light. It’s unfortunate that portions of the succinct 94-minute duration are misspent with silly gags when there’s plenty of scenes that warranted more time for the audience to live in. It’s a shame also because the cheaper laughs distract from the scenes of levity that actually feel sincere, be it the theme song to Home And Away being performed on tin whistle by an unexpected cameo or the quips shared between Joy and Mully as they allow their fondness for one another to come through.
Anchored by themes rooted in family, with a keen focus on the role of the parent, Joyride excels in the tender exchanges between Mully and Joy, especially when they’re contrasted with the youngster’s fraught relationship with his father, played by Lochlann Ó Mearáin. Ultimately, Joyride’s missteps are mostly outweighed by the captivating performances from the two leads which give the audience plenty to find joy in.
Words: Zara Hedderman
Illustration: Marina Marinina