Written and directed by Helen Hunt
Starring Helene Hunt, Brenton Thwaites and Luke Wilson
In Theatres Friday, May 1st and On Demand Tuesday, May 12th 2015
Oscar winning actress Helen Hunt underwent a difficult personal journey to get this film made. She learned to surf and at age 50, that’s a punishing commitment. She spent up to eight hours a day in the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean in intense physical work as she was directing and acting. And she’d written the screenplay.
Ride is a provocative, lifelike study of the intense relationship between a Manhattan publishing executive woman and her college aged son. They’re close, too close since his father left them for a younger woman. They have an open and brutally honest way of communication which usually leaves them exhausted and unable to connect with others.
Hunt’s Jackie’s anxiety and thinly disguised insecurity causes her to exert unfair emotional pressure on Angelo and he feels stifled. Things started to go wrong between them when they were deserted, and Jackie’s carefully laid plans for him, her vision of his future fall away under the weight of her need. They speak cruelly, mercilessly to one another, and he withdraws.
Angelo heads to the west coast to go to college but he never makes it. New freedom drives him to seek new experiences and begin life on his own. He discovers surfing and tosses away any remaining ideas about meeting his mother’s standards. Angelo has been through a turbulent time and needs to recuperate body and soul. He keeps it secret but Jackie senses something isn’t right when he finally answers her calls.
Eventually Jackie follows him out west and discovers the truth by stalking him. Yup. She involves her patient and disapproving driver in the game while refusing to acknowledge how unethically she’s behaving.
Once she learns the truth, that her son is not at college and hanging out at the beach, her anger turns into action. Instead of confronting him she hopes that if she learns to surf, she’ll win his friendship back.
So as usual, brimming with bravado and ego, Jackie jumps right into the ocean and nearly dies when a big wave shoots the board up and over her. Jackie has no understanding of water or waves or undertows or boards.
A younger surfer played by Wilson offers to teach her but, as usual, she says all the wrong things and even so, for some reason he persists. She consents to have him show her the ropes and undergoes a series of body busting lessons, and progresses.
Meanwhile, the ruse is up when she and Angelo meet by accident. She’s following him secretly, too closely and her car rear ends him in his car. Cute meet? No. Contentious, unforgiveable and sad. And they’re both busted! He’s not in college, she’s not in NYC.
The film has a sun drenched, appealing California-ness and Hunt has that perpetually sunny bright look that helps soften her character’s hard edges; the sun and light seem to erase the Manhattan publishing executive persona and she relaxes. Morally she’s less than sun drenched.
There is an underlying disturbance that shapes the film. It’s not so sunny, it’s not especially fun, but it does try to address familial issues that need addressing. It’s about our bad behaviour and its consequences. At its heart it’s about a mother denying life to her son because she’s lonely and hurt and unwilling to let him separate.