The big-heartedness of this film won me over despite my utter ignorance of the racing world. It’s a bit hammy and TV-movie-ish, but you can’t help smiling at its feelgood directness and warmth. Directed by Rachel Griffiths, Ride Like a Girl is the true story of Michelle Payne, who in 2015 became the first female jockey to win Australia’s prestigious Melbourne Cup horse race. And she did it in the face of extraordinary odds.
Her mum had died in a car crash when Michelle was very young, leaving her dad to bring up her and nine horse-loving siblings on his own; later her sister died as a result of a bad fall from a horse and Michelle herself had to make a gruelling recovery from a similar fall. But she battled on, facing the brutal weight-control regime – one sequence shows a need to drop three kilos in a matter of days – and ingrained sexism in the racing world.
She was never allowed access to the men’s changing facilities, and in the middle of a race, whenever Michelle spotted the all-important gap that a winner has to charge through, all the other macho male jockeys would suddenly become snowflakey and shrill with outrage, complaining to the stewards. On winning the Melbourne Cup, she cheerfully told all sexist nay-sayers to “get stuffed”.
Teresa Palmer plays Michelle and Sam Neill brings humour and gentleness to the role of Paddy, her grumpy, pernickety but pleased-as-punch dad and coach. Michelle’s brother Stevie, who has Down’s syndrome, plays himself and his scenes with Michelle have a lovely tenderness. I’m always a sucker for tense eve-of-battle set pieces in underdog sports movies.
Source: The Guardian