Review: ‘Joyride’ (2022), starring Olivia Colman and Charlie Reid

March 29, 2023

by Carla Hay

Olivia Colman and Charlie Reid in “Joyride” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

“Joyride” (2022)

Directed by Emer Reynolds

Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland, the comedy/drama film “Joyride” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An unhappy 12-year-old boy, who runs away from home by stealing a taxi, finds out that a miserable mother with a newborn child is in the back of the taxi, and these unlikely travel partners go on a road trip together.

Culture Audience: “Joyride” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Olivia Colman and are interested in sappy and unrealistic dramedies.

Lochlann Ó Mearáin in “Joyride” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

The comedy/drama “Joyride” is more like a train wreck. It’s phony schmaltz that doesn’t deserve the great talent of Olivia Colman. Among the many cringeworthy moments is a low point when a 12-year-old boy teaches a first-time middle-aged mother how to breastfeed her baby. The movie is filled with idiotic dialogue and blatant attempts to manipulate viewers’ emotions in a very hackneyed way. It’s no wonder that Oscar-winning actress Colman distanced herself from this embarrassing flop by doing little to no promotion for it.

Directed by Emer Reynolds and written by Ailbhe Keogan, “Joyride” takes place in unnamed parts of Ireland. The movie was actually filmed in Kerry County, Ireland. The beginning of the movie shows a 12-year-old boy named Mully (played by Charlie Reid) is at a pub called The Greyhound, where he is on stage singing Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.” He’s performing for the crowd because this event is a fundraiser for his deceased and beloved mother Rita Mulligan, who recently passed away of an unnamed illness.

Mully has a dishonest and selfish father named James (played by Lochlann Ó Mearáin), who is raising Mully and Mully’s baby sister, who doesn’t have a name in the movie. James has quickly moved on to a new girlfriend named Imelda, who is living in the household too. At this fundraising event, Mully notices that his father is already taking the cash out of the donation container. Mully tells James to stop, but James ignores him.

James abruptly tells Mully, “What’s for her is for us. She’d want us to have it. You, me, your sister the baby. It’s not cheap having a new one in the house.” Viewers later find out that James is in debt to some local thugs, so the money probably won’t be going to his family. As a consolation, James gives Mully a €50 bill. Mully refuses it and instead grabs the wad of cash from James and runs out into the street.

At that same moment, a taxi driver named Paddy (played by Seán O’Connor) is in the street and has temporarily stepped out of his taxi to load some luggage from a passenger. But the only thing that Mully sees is a taxi with an open door and no one inside. Mully impulsively gets in the taxi and drives away. James runs after Mully and will continue to try to find Mully, not so much because he’s concerned about his son’s safety, but mainly because James wants the money that Mully took.

It isn’t long before Mully finds out that there are two people who’ve been sleeping in the back seat of the car: an attorney named Joy (played by Colman) and her newborn daughter Robin. Joy is startled out of her sleep and finds out that a runaway boy is driving the taxi. Joy doesn’t do the right thing and get out of the car that’s being illegally driven by a child, because there would be no “Joyride” movie if an attorney like Robin acted like a responsible adult. Instead, Robin makes a deal with Mully: She won’t turn him in to authorities if Mully drives her to the airport.

As so begins a tedious and ridiculous road trip, where Mully and Joy steal more cars, to throw the authorities and Mully’s father James off of their track. Predictably, there are many distractions and detours on the way to the airport, along with plenty of bickering from this unlikely pair getting to know each other. Mully doesn’t do all of the driving. Joy does some of the driving in places where there might be garda check points or other places where a 12-year-old boy driving a car would be easily noticed.

Joy wants to go to the airport because she’s taking a trip to the home where she plans to give up Robin for adoption. At first Joy won’t tell Mully who is adopting Robin, but eventually Joy reveals that a younger relative of Joy’s named Mags (played by Aisling O’Sullivan) has agreed to take the baby, because Joy doesn’t want to raise this child. Joy explains that the pregnancy was unplanned, the baby’s father is someone Joy barely knows, and Joy was surprised that she got pregnant at her age.

Mully is puzzled over why Joy would want to give up her child for someone else to raise. Joy get defensive and goes on this rant: “Because I don’t like kids, and Mags does! People give away babies all the time—to Romanian orphanages, to child trafficker, to Chinese gymnastics academies. I’m giving mine to a loving home. Stone me.”

Joy adds, “Look, more women should take my lead, instead of dragging up kids they never wanted. They should be selfless enough to give them away to women who eat, sleep and dream babies. There’s enough of them out there.”

The problem with this fake feminist speech in “Joyride” is that the movie is filled with numerous scenarios where Joy has to be taught how to be a decent human being by a 12-year-old boy. The movie’s messaging is obvious: “Look at what happens when a boy who wants a mother unexpectedly finds a woman who doesn’t want her child. The boy has more emotional intelligence than this bitter woman, so he’s going to teach her some life lessons about opening her heart.”

Not surprisingly, Joy has a backstory that’s supposed to explain why she’s rude and prickly to almost everyone she meets. Yes, it’s another “blame it on the childhood” movie, where there are flashbacks to Joy’s negative childhood experiences with a cruel mother who appears to be mentally ill. Kate Brick plays a young Joy in these flashbacks.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the performances in the movie, although Colman looks like she regrets every minute that she signed up for this treacly mess. The major problems are with the screenplay and direction of “Joyride,” which wants to give a misguided sitcom treatment to some heavy issues. By the time the movie comes to its predictable and very corny end, viewers will feel like this “Joyride” was nothing but a trip to time-wasting absurdity.

Magnolia Pictures released “Joyride” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on December 23, 2022. The movie was released in Ireland and the United Kingdom on July 29, 2022.

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