Joyride sees Irish teen Mully (Charlie Reid) unwittingly setting off on a cross-country roadtrip with struggling mother Joy (Olivia Colman) after he steals the taxi cab she was planning to take.
Neither of their lives are going too well; Mully has run away from his father James (Lochlann Mearáin) after swiping the charity money raised in his mother’s honor which James had stolen. Meanwhile, Joy is desperate to leave her life behind and give away her new baby (whom she later names Robin). With both their futures unclear, the pair sets off on a journey across Ireland in pursuit of a happier life.
The outlandish premise aside, Joyride is a road movie that treads a familiar path, featuring as it does a close scrape with the police, frustrating breakdowns and other common road trip hiccups like needing to take awkward bathroom breaks along the way. Luckily, the film plays out in just over 90 minutes, so we’re never left languishing in a familiar moment for long.
As with all good road movies, though, Joyride is not really about the destination (or in this case, the plot), but the journey, and the people taking it. And this is Joyride‘s true strength. The film soon transforms into a meditation on motherhood and what it means to experience childhood trauma.
Given her star turn in The Lost Daughter, it’s no surprise that Olivia Colman thrives as Joy. In the role, she gets to draw both on many facets of her career, delivering laughs and gut-punching moments in equal measure. Joy has experienced plenty of hardship in her life, and Colman captures her struggle with ease.
Holding your own opposite a national treasure like Olivia Colman is no mean feat, but Charlie Reid does exactly that. He manages to balance balances the playful spirit of a cheeky young lad with the emotional depth of someone who has had to learn to grow up fast so he can take care for himself. The fact that Reid has few acting credits to his name only serves to make his efforts more impressive.
Despite being in drastically different places in life, the pair have near-instant chemistry and play off one another effortlessly. The hilarious jabs they take at one another always land — a testament to Ailbhe Keogan’s lively script. This initial rapport proves to be the start of a genuine and fruitful friendship that causes them to open up to one another and leads to some of the film’s best moments; an emotional exchange where Mully walks Joy through the process of breastfeeding Robin is a particular highlight.
By comparison, Lochlann Mearáin’s father figure feels one-note, but this feels like it’s by design. For the film’s resolution to work, James has to loom over the entire trip as a comparatively one-dimensional bad guy that the pair want to avoid. Plus, even though it would have been nice to see James be more of an on-screen threat to Mully and Joy’s growing friendship, we still get to spend just enough time with him to know he’s one character not to be trusted.
As a character drama, Joyride excels. The two people at the wheel come from very different walks of life, but it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride to see Mully and Joy form the bond that both have so afternoon missed in their lives.
Joyride is in UK cinemas from Friday, July 29. US release info has not been confirmed at the time of writing.