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Movie Review: 'Ride'

Rating: ★★★☆☆

It’s just about that time of year that another generation of children will be leaving home to attend college. This is an exciting time for young adults to have their first taste of freedom and to start to explore their own inner desires – without the input (although lovingly given) by their parents. But, what about those left behind? If this is the last child to leave the nest, it is also a moment when a parent discovers that with the busy life of parenting now over, they also have much to learn. These are some of the compelling themes explored in Helen Hunt’s new film “Ride.”

“Ride” is the story of an overbearing mother Jackie (Helen Hunt) that is having a hard time with her son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) going off to college. While she stays in New York to focus on her high-stress job, he takes off for the summer to visit his dad in California. When Jackie visits Angelo’s dorm to drop off something, she finds out that her son has withdrawn from school. In a panic, Jackie follows her son to California. Little does she know that it is not her son she is chasing, but a chance to discover her own life again. The film also poignantly displays a moment of self-forgiveness on Jackie’s part – which is at the heart of this important drama.

“Ride” is the second film Hunt has written and directed (she co-wrote and directed the 2007 film “Then She Found Me”). Although it may be considered a conventional film by other critics, I have no problem with convention as long as the film is entertaining and told well – which “Ride” is!

For the most part, the story evolves into a film of self exploration for Jackie and Hunt does a very good job of creating a storyline that shifts direction in a way that is seamless and effortless. Most enjoyable to me were the surfing camera shots. Hunt’s cinematographer Jas Shelton brings the surfing shots close enough that the viewer will feel like they are learning to surf as much as Hunt’s character Jackie is (and it doesn't hurt that Hunt is an avid surfer and available for close-ups). Also the last scene that shows the California coast as it mostly is, gray, quiet and peaceful is just incredibly beautiful work.

My only complaint about “Ride,” and it is a small one, is that Jackie’s overbearing traits are exaggerated too much. I wouldn't be shocked if this exaggeration was the product on input from a producer or studio either. And overall, I think her character would be a little more relatable if Jackie was just a bit less rigid.

Hunt as Jackie and Brenton Thwaites as Angelo are both convincing as mother and son and as characters on a path of self-discovery. And Luke Wilson is ever so charming as Hunt’s surf instructor and younger love interest for Jackie. Ladies, he’s hot!

“Ride” is not on the track to win the next Academy Award for Best Picture, but it does have something important to say. If you are in need of a break from a hectic life, this is the perfect movie to see to get you ready for your own summer of self-exploration and renewal. And if you have retained anything from this film, remember to enjoy the ride.

“Ride” is rated R for language and some drug use and has a run time of one hour and 33 minutes.

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