Review: Olivia Colman Does Her Best to Add Heart, Meaning to a Featherweight Joyride

The simple fact is that I likely wouldn’t be reviewing Joyride were it not for the presence of Olivia Colman as Joy, an attorney who is preparing to journey across Ireland with her newborn in tow to give away the child to a friend, because having a baby at this point in her busy life isn’t convenient. Written by Ailbhe Keogan and directed by longtime editor and documentary filmmaker Emer Reynolds (making his feature film debut), the film takes this potentially melancholy pretext and further complicates it by tossing in a 12-year-old boy named Mully (Charlie Reid), who ends up stealing a taxi to get away from his no-good father (Lochlann O’Mearáin) and finding Joy and her baby in the backseat. And now it’s a romp.

Mully’s mother died years earlier, and every year, the local pub where he lives holds a fundraiser in her honor. This year, Mully’s dad, James, attempts to steal the cash to pay back debts, but Mully manages to get away with the money and hits the road, destination unknown. Eventually he and Joy bond over their mutual broken lives, and they continue the trip until either Joy reaches her destination or she gets busted for kidnapping. It’s really not any more complicated than that, and the only reason any real value comes out of this featherlight tale is Colman, and to a certain degree Reid, whose chemistry as misfits looking to separate themselves from people that should be making them happy is not without value and impact.

Colman’s very sensible approach to Joy is the key. This is not an emotional decision for her; she didn’t even think she could get pregnant at her age, and she’s happy with her work and workload. But getting to know Mully makes her aware of the possibilities of what a little one might grow up to be, and it complicates her thinking significantly. Naturally, James shows up looking for his boy (or the money he’s got, to be precise), because the film feels that it needs a villain to succeed, when it certainly does not. Joy and Mully go on their own brand of an odyssey, running into different people along the way who help them or challenge them in various ways, and the entire experience brings them closer together, like a makeshift family. Big shocker, I know.

Joyride is harmless, but it feels like a placeholder for Colman, who has two other films in theaters currently (Empire of Light and the Puss In Boots sequel); this is by far the weakest of the three endeavors. But it’s impossible not to get drawn in by an Olivia Colman performance, so for that reason alone, I watched and reviewed it. But I’m not proud of myself.

The film is now playing in select theaters and is available via VOD.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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