The Melbourne Cup is the biggest event on the Australian horse-racing calendar. Given that it’s the only sporting event Australian workplaces pause for, you might even say it’s the biggest sporting event in the country.
Here in Oz, it’s affectionately deemed “the race that stops the nation”.
In 2015, 29-year-old Michelle Payne rode in it for the second time. Payne comes from a racing family. She is the youngest of ten children, who were all raised by their widowed father (played by Sam Neill).
Without spoiling the full story, it’s one where, as a female jockey, Payne came up against just about everything- A boys club determined not to let her in, tragedy and injury. When she met a horse with a similarly troubled past, it seemed fate that she would ride that horse, The Prince of Penzance in the Cup. But boy were the odds against them. In fact, the bookies gave them 100 to 1.
With such a remarkable story to tell, it was just a matter of time before someone turned it into a movie.
The screenplay was written by Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge) and Elise McCredie (Jack Irish), while Aussie actress Rachel Griffiths has taken the reigns as director.
Just like Payne’s journey, Ride Like A Girl really is an emotional roller coaster.
Teresa Palmer, as Payne, gives an award-worthy performance. She brings out the strength and stubbornness that Payne displayed for better or for worse when she was up against a wall. Her face at times seeming impossibly expressive and creating a character you can’t help but root for.
Neill gives one of his greatest performances as the father fighting his desire to keep his children safe while still supporting their dreams. But it’s Stevie Payne, playing himself, who is sure to wow people with his scene-stealing performance.
Afflicted with down-syndrome, Stevie is the closest in age to Michelle and they share a most beautiful bond, which shines in the film. In his first-ever role, he gives a seemingly seasoned performance, delivering jokes with impeccable timing and conveying raw emotion when it’s called for.
Griffiths has used everything in her arsenal to create the feeling of being a racing insider. She builds on this right through to the film’s deafening, tense and colourful climax.
Ride Like A Girl details the sexism and up-hill battle that Payne faced and how through sheer hard work and determination she was able to rise above it all. The story trots along nicely and features a few recognisable Aussie faces (like Magda Sobanski as a gambling Nun and Mick Molloy as a stoney-faced trainer) and some great Aussie music from the likes of Amy Shark.
It’s a feel-good, against-all-odds success story that undoubtedly deserves to be heard. Strap in for this funny, heart-warming absolute prize-winner.
SEE IT if…
You’re a champion of the underdog
You love a film full of feels
SKIP IT if…
You’re anti- horse racing
You hate Aussie accents
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
Not your thing?
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