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Joyride review: Irish road movie is a trip worth taking

Joyride is a fun film fronted by two powerful performances.

Olivia Colman and Charlie Reid in Joyride
(Image: © Vertigo Releasing)

Our Verdict

Powerhouse performances mean Joyride reaches its destination with ease.

For

  • Brilliant chemistry between both on-screen leads
  • Jokes always land when they come along
  • Beautiful shots of the Irish landscape
  • Emotional, but never too sweet

Against

  • Outlandish premise might make it difficult to buy into the story

Joyride sees Irish teen Mully (Charlie Reid) unwittingly setting off on a cross-country roadtrip with struggling mother Joy (Olivia Colman) after he steals the taxi cab she was planning to take. 

Neither of their lives are going too well; Mully has run away from his father James (Lochlann Ó Mearáin) after swiping the charity money raised in his mother's honor which James had stolen. Meanwhile, Joy is desperate to leave her life behind and give away her new baby (whom she later names Robin). With both their futures unclear, the pair sets off on a journey across Ireland in pursuit of a happier life.

The outlandish premise aside, Joyride is a road movie that treads a familiar path, featuring as it does a close scrape with the police, frustrating breakdowns and other common road trip hiccups like needing to take awkward bathroom breaks along the way. Luckily, the film plays out in just over 90 minutes, so we're never left languishing in a familiar moment for long.

As with all good road movies, though, Joyride is not really about the destination (or in this case, the plot), but the journey, and the people taking it. And this is Joyride's true strength. The film soon transforms into a meditation on motherhood and what it means to experience childhood trauma.

Given her star turn in The Lost Daughter, it's no surprise that Olivia Colman thrives as Joy. In the role, she gets to draw both on many facets of her career, delivering laughs and gut-punching moments in equal measure. Joy has experienced plenty of hardship in her life, and Colman captures her struggle with ease.

Holding your own opposite a national treasure like Olivia Colman is no mean feat, but Charlie Reid does exactly that. He manages to balance balances the playful spirit of a cheeky young lad with the emotional depth of someone who has had to learn to grow up fast so he can take care for himself. The fact that Reid has few acting credits to his name only serves to make his efforts more impressive. 

Joy (Olivia Colman) and Mully (Charlie Reid) take the ferry in Joyride.

Joy and Mully's fondness is the beating heart of the film. (Image credit: Vertigo Releasing)

Despite being in drastically different places in life, the pair have near-instant chemistry and play off one another effortlessly. The hilarious jabs they take at one another always land — a testament to Ailbhe Keogan's lively script. This initial rapport proves to be the start of a genuine and fruitful friendship that causes them to open up to one another and leads to some of the film's best moments; an emotional exchange where Mully walks Joy through the process of breastfeeding Robin is a particular highlight.

By comparison, Lochlann Ó Mearáin's father figure feels one-note, but this feels like it's by design. For the film's resolution to work, James has to loom over the entire trip as a comparatively one-dimensional bad guy that the pair want to avoid. Plus, even though it would have been nice to see James be more of an on-screen threat to Mully and Joy's growing friendship, we still get to spend just enough time with him to know he's one character not to be trusted.

As a character drama, Joyride excels. The two people at the wheel come from very different walks of life, but it's a pleasure to be along for the ride to see Mully and Joy form the bond that both have so sorely missed in their lives.

Joyride is in UK cinemas from Friday, July 29. US release info has not been confirmed at the time of writing (check out our new movies in 2022 guide for more movies to look out for).

Martin Shore
Martin Shore

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.