Joyride – a quintessential Film Fleadh movie

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Finally, the Galway Film Fleadh is back in all its glory. After an online-only event in 2020 and a hybrid event in 2021 that was mostly online with some outdoor screenings, it was back in person at City Hall on Tuesday. It was so good to be back.

The opening film this year was Joyride. A feature debut from Irish director Emer Reynolds. It really struck me as a quintessential Galway Film Fleadh film, Irish, heartfelt, hilarious and fun to watch. A brilliant choice to open the festival and was a huge hit with the sold-out crowd.

Shot in Kerry last year in just five weeks, with many days of location shooting, it’s truly a remarkable feat to have made such a great film during the pandemic.

It stars Olivia Coleman. I was chatting with a friend recently after watching one of his recent movies, The Lost Daughter. He pointed out that with Daniel Day Lewis retired, is Olivia Coleman the best actress in the world right now? I think for me, probably yes.

So what a blow for this Irish decision to have him as the lead in this great little film. Next to him is newcomer Charlie Reid. The film is about Joy, played by Coleman, a new mother who hasn’t really taken on motherhood. Reid plays Mully, a young teenager who recently lost his mother.

He runs away from home in the same direction as Joy and they end up following each other. Joy tries to get a flight to Lanzarote and Mully tries to avoid her father. It’s a buddy movie in the vein of Midnight Run. Along the way, they develop a bond and get into all sorts of trouble.

We know Coleman is awesome, but the supporting cast has changed in earnest here. Reid is remarkable for someone of such limited experience (this is his first film) and Mully’s father, played by Lochlann O’Mearain, plays the type of asshole you know well if you live in Ireland.

I enjoyed the first half of the film where it felt more humor-driven, but when you have an actor of Coleman’s caliber, you might as well use his dramatic abilities too. The slight halfway shift from more comedy/drama to drama/comedy worked surprisingly well. Some of the dramatic scenes in the second half of the movie took me from a good movie to a great one.

One particular scene featuring a phone call between Joy, a family member that I found incredibly moving. It’s huge credit to Reynolds that she gets such a good job not only from an Oscar-winning veteran like Coleman, but also such a good job from a young boy in her first film in Reid.

A nice opening to my favorite week of summer. Joyride will be on general release at the end of the month.

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