- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Dir: Emer Reynolds. Starring: Olivia Colman, Charlie Reid, Lochlann O Mearáin, Olwen Fouéré, Tommy Tiernan. 15, 93 minutes.
According to Joyride, a real toothache of a road-trip comedy, all that’s needed to change a woman’s mind on the topic of motherhood is a light case of kidnapping. Documentarian Emer Reynolds’s first fiction feature is, regrettably, a textbook demonstration of how easily the dogged pursuit of sentimentality can insult those it intends to woo. In the process, it ignores the multifarious realities of womanhood by arguing that a reluctance to have children could really just be a case of “first day at the office” nerves. Joyride isn’t anti-choice propaganda. But it does stray dangerously close.
It’s almost a shock, then, to see Joyride headlined by someone like Olivia Colman, whose roles have helped illuminate each and every crevice of motherhood, whether beautiful or repugnant in their nature. She was even Oscar-nominated for the last one: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, which tenderly explored the feeling of regret that mothers are always so viciously shamed for. Here, she plays Joy (just as a reminder, the film is called Joyride), a solicitor in County Kerry, Ireland, who wakes up in the back of a stolen taxicab with her newborn baby. The car has been hijacked by 12-year-old runaway Mully (Charlie Reid), and it’s nowhere close to Joy’s intended destination. Her plan, before it fell so spectacularly apart, went as follows: leave the baby with her best friend, who’s desperate to adopt, and then board a plane to Lanzarote.
There’s a glimmer of that Colman-brand thorniness in Ailbhe Keogan’s screenplay. When Joy is berated by a food-truck owner who thinks she’s let both her kids go hungry, she volleys back with a robust “f*** off”. Colman treats those simple words like they were a three-course meal. That’s what makes her the national treasure she is, even if Joyride insists on dressing her in a yellow-and-cyan co-ord set that makes her look like she’d be air cabin crew on a flight bound straight for hell.
But Colman’s work feels undermined – again and again – by the paltry words of wisdom constantly lobbed at her by other characters. For a road-trip film that checks off all the usual tropes – the car breaks down, there’s a police chase – a noticeable amount of time is spent on lectures delivered either by random men or by Mully, a child with the knowledge base of a professional midwife. At one point, beloved Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan turns up with a tin whistle and the words, “you can’t half-love a child”. Mully is the closest his niece has to a father figure, which gives him the authority to dismiss Joy’s reluctance to breastfeed her baby with a hand-wave. “You just think that she doesn’t want you,” he claims. Joy’s position that she’s “practical and solution-orientated” is viewed as a sign of cold-heartedness and, tellingly, the film never gives her best friend Angela (Aislín McGuckin) the space to explore her own feelings about the adoption.
Reynolds straightforwardly treats the material as broad comedy with smatterings of sincerity – a broad Irish comedy at that, with tourist board-friendly pans of the countryside and plenty of lilting Celtic music. Reid, who is sincere and funny in the role, does develop some chemistry with Colman. But it’s hard to treat Joyride just as a pleasant but easily disposable romp, especially when Reynolds loads up the film with so much cheap symbolism. There’s a Pietà-like tear falling from Joy’s cheek and onto the baby’s forehead. Then a CGI robin that stalks the escapees across the breadth of Ireland. And for what? To tell women to get over their insecurities and embrace motherhood? It’s hard to find the wholesomeness in that.
‘Joyride’ is in cinemas from 29 July