Joyride review: Olivia Colman takes a ridiculous road trip

“Joyride” is a film about a cart. Set in Ireland, this tale of a brand new single mother and precocious 13-year-old boy who end up on the street together is so scattered and far-fetched that it overwhelms their better intentions – of which there are many.

Olivia Colman plays the ironically named Joy, a frantic, beleaguered small-town lawyer who travels across County Kerry to deliver her newborn daughter to her best friend Mags (Aisling O’Sullivan) before flying off to a holiday in the Canary Islands. Haunted by a difficult childhood that included a brutal mother and an unfaithful father — and also struggling with postpartum depression — Joy feels ill-equipped to become a mother herself and can’t wait to finish her mothering responsibilities.

That is, until the cab she’s taking to Mag’s house is stolen by the brazen Mully (Charlie Reid), an underage – and ridiculously competent – driver who’s running from his scheming father James (Lochlann Ó Mearáin). Mully has stolen a pile of money for charity from his seedy “Da” (who has dubious plans for the money) raised in memory of his late mother. But the random taxi driver soon realizes that his “passengers” in the back seat are drunkenly dozing Joy and her swaddled child – and the eponymous jaunt begins. (Mully’s tipsy nickname for Joy provides one of the few real laughs in the film.)

Stories like this are what they are, and deeply disparate Joy and Mully slowly find ways to connect and help each other cope. That one of those moments involves Mully teaching Joy how to breastfeed the reluctant baby she happened to name Robin might not be on a viewer’s bingo card. It’s both an awkward and unbelievable episode (even for the unhappily distraught Joy and the overly imaginative Mully), but all in all it’s no more than most of the action here.

The geographic and practical logic of Joy and Mully’s hasty journey, beset with obstacles, proves to be a low priority in Ailbhe Keogan’s overly imaginative screenplay; You could drive any of the many vehicles featured in the film through its series of plot holes. As a result, the film, which was seriously directed by Emer Reynolds (2017 award-winning documentary The Farthest), relies largely on the potential appeal of its quirky characters, idyllic loveliness, and Celtic undertones to counter its absurdities, excessive symbolism, and forced parallels . But that’s a heavy lift.

It’s safe to say that when you have an actor of Colman’s caliber on hand, you can’t go wrong – and this is no exception. She delves into Joy’s emotional whirlpool with no less commitment than she has in such standout films as The Father, The Prodigal Daughter (with which Joyride shares a slight thematic overlap), and the current Empire of Light. has shown. But ultimately, even the best actor can only relate so much to a character as odd, contradictory, and often off-putting as Joy. Her hot-potato attitude toward Baby Robin inspires little sympathy, despite Joy’s longstanding emotional baggage (which, in the real world, might only partially justify her behavior).

This begs the question, would Joy not have been a more believable, insightful soul if she had been written as considerably younger, before she had those extra decades to better solve her problems? By the time she’s probably in her mid to late 40s, it feels like there are far more complicated and irreversible — and irresponsibly unmanaged — work dysfunctions that have led to her current unhinged state. It also makes the neat, fairly quick way things wrap up a lot less believable, a lot less believable finally.

And then there’s the film’s biggest mystery: who is Robin’s father? Joy casually says she has no idea. But maybe narrow it down for us? Just a thought, but whoever he is might want to adopt the kid. Second riddle: Aside from a police chase that’s going nowhere, why isn’t the law more on Joy’s and Mully’s tails given all the uncompromising mayhem they’re causing?

As the impulsive but big-hearted Mully, Reid has charisma and pathos in abundance; he is a find. He turns a potentially unbearable role into something warm, compelling and unforgettable. Despite this, his Mully is so preternaturally capable for his young age that you almost expect him to give birth to a baby instead of just helping look after one. Yes, we have to assume that Mully, not his father, has been the “man of the family” since the death of his holy mother three years ago. But does that affect his ability to steal cars – and a highly visible ice cream truck – like a seasoned pro? Did I mention he’s also a skilled song stylist?

Only in the cinema.

‘joyride’

Not rated

Duration: 1 hour 34 minutes

To play: Starts December 23rd. Lammle Glendale; also available as VOD

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-12-20/review-joyride-olivia-colman Joyride review: Olivia Colman takes a ridiculous road trip

Sarah Ridley

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