Ride – a movie produced, written and directed by Helen Hunt
“Ride” is the story of an overly possessive mother, Jackie (Helen Hunt), who is having a hard time facing an empty nest as her son, Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) prepares for college. To complicate things, Jackie finds out Angelo has quit school and plans to stay with Dad in LA. Jackie leaves her editor’s job at the New Yorker and hops a flight to the West Coast to settle things with Angelo. Unexplained at first, she gets caught up in the surfer crowd and gets hooked up with Ian (Luke Wilson), a surfing instructor. As Jackie struggles with her surfing (not very successfully), Angelo struggles with ditching mom and having a life of his own. Jackie’s chauffeur, Ramon, (a fun David Zayas from Dexter), copes with all day waiting as Jackie surfs and occasionally rescues her. It finally comes evident that Jackie is surfing to find a connection with her son.
The scene with Ian as her pickup lover reveals a mix of character – he the surfer dude tired of the advances of women, and she, coldly using him to make her feel younger and less alone. There’s a funny but gross scene where Ian says he has to pee on Jackie’s foot to release jelly fish barbs she’s picked up. Another with the two lovemaking and confessing to each other. Jackie: “I’m not really 37.” Ian: “I didn’t have to pee on your foot.” Jackie smokes pot at one point and that scene with her moving from hysterical laughter to sad regret as she confronts her ex husband and son is her best acting in the film. Otherwise, relationships in this film could be more genuine. The mother son banter becomes hysterical at times. But Angelo does fairly well portraying the typical spoiled coming of age brat. One giveaway: he refuses to call her mom, and addresses her as Jackie.
Late in the film, we learn that Jackie lost a son and Angelo a brother to accidental death –a truth that jolts us out of the story we are following. At one point, Jackie rushes back to New York to bring the dead child’s ashes to the beach, where she pours them out as she straddles her surfboard. It might have been easier for us to take this in if we had met the child in a flashback showing his place in the family. And it would have more readily placed his death as part of the mother son conflict going on.
The film is both funny and sad and the surfing a perfect metaphor for Jackie letting go of changes she can’t control. The surfing wasn’t the greatest – no hang tens here - but ultimately the story is not about surfing but about a mother coming to grips with three heartbreaking events in her life: divorce, the loss of a child, and an empty nest.