"For a film whose lead character makes a hobby of worrying about weak plots and clichéd endings, Ride pulls out all the stops to follow formula."

Children leaving home is never easy. For Jackie (Helen Hunt) it's complicated by an already fractured family. When son Angelo (rising star Brenton Thwaites) leaves for college, she'll be all on her own. Constantly busy as she is with calls and meetings, working as an editor, one wonders if she would have time to notice, but she has decided it's going to hurt, as she decides all her emotions in advance, in an orderly progression. To resolve the anticipated problem, she engineers another way of remaining close to her son. He wants to be a writer. She'll be his editor. They'll work together.

Then Angelo drops out of college and goes to Venice, California, to lie around on the beach.

Copy picture

For a film whose lead character makes a hobby of worrying about weak plots and clichéd endings, Ride pulls out all the stops to follow formula: the mellowing mother, the youth wising up, the sexual fantasy straight out of a glossy magazine, and an 'I learned something today' finale. To be fair, it's only Hunt's second screenplay, after Then She Found Me saw her take on the opposite role in the parent/child drama. The dialogue is stagey and the comedy too often falls short, but in between the clichés she has fun playing with a pastiche of many characters written for her by others in the past. Perhaps that's the point - that she's trying to take these familiar pieces and do something new with them. There are moments when her performance rises above the material and moments when, as a director, she captures something genuinely poetic about the waves in which her character is learning to surf.

Thwaites,for his part, doesn't have much to do. He's sensibly sidelined; Jackie is struggling with the unknowable quality he has developed in adulthood, so he can't be too familiar to us. This leads to an awkward scene in which Jackie asks for advice on what young men want, only to recite it to him almost word for word later in the film and have it magically resolve things. Imagine this with the genders reversed and it's easy to see the problem; it's lazy othering combined with an assumption that all men are fashioned from a single template. It's difficult to believe, when this is passed off as wisdom, that anything about the central relationship has really been resolved, which in turn sidelines the relationship itself and puts the focus on Jackie's self-actualisation - not a problematic theme but an underdeveloped one.

In and around this there are some impressive supporting performances. David Zayas stands out as a driver who, much to Jackie's consternation, also has a life of his own. The whole film is prettily shot and effectively captures the appeal of the beach, again in a glossy magazine kind of way. There's a natural audience for films like this and it's likely to be warmly welcomed, but one is left with the feeling that Hunt really needs to get her teeth into something more substantial.

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2015
Share this with others on...
Ride packshot
A frustrated mother trying to understand her drop-out son finds that her life changes when she learns to surf.

Director: Helen Hunt

Writer: Helen Hunt

Starring: Helen Hunt, Brenton Thwaites, Luke Wilson, David Zayas

Year: 2014

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: