At some point a gap will open up, so take it or it will close faster than you can say your mother’s name. —Paddy Payne to his daughter MichelleRide Like a Girl

Classy Australian movie

By Roger Childs

Last year we were in Noosa when the Melbourne Cup was on. During the Tuesday afternoon I was out riding in Tewantin and absent-mindedly wondered why everything was so quiet and the shops were closed. I then looked up at an office window and there was everybody dressed to the nines with the women prominent in their fancy hats and fascinators. Plenty of food was being consumed and wine drunk: “the race that stops a nation” was working its annual magic.

Whether you follow racing or not (I don’t), this is a very good film. You know how it’s going to end before it starts, but that doesn’t matter, as this is about Michelle Payne’s bumpy ride to becoming the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in 155 years. Four stars.

Great acting and atmosphere

This movie naturally lives and breathes horse racing. Michelle lives with her father and nine siblings on a ranch, and most of her brothers and sisters become jockeys. She lost her mother at a young age, and an older sister, whom she had idealized, died after a racing accident.

Ride Like a Girl 1From an early age there are plenty of horsey games played and late in the movie it is hilarious to see Michelle in full training for top races using a rocking horse to practice her balance! 

Dad often tests Michelle on her knowledge of Cup winners – horse, jockey, colours and she’s always right on the button. Teresa Palmer as Michelle is first class in the lead role and Kiwi (winner 1983) Sam Neale, who always slots neatly into Aussie films, has the right balance as Paddy of concerned parent and proud father. Another impressive acting effort comes from Stevie, Michelle’s down-syndrome younger brother playing himself.

A jockey’s lot is not an easy one

The film highlights the demanding life of a jockey:

  • alarm going at 3.00 am
  • riding in the dark and cold
  • trying to keep your weight down
  • macho and sexist remarks
  • endless negotiating with trainers and owners to get good mounts
  • falls and broken bones
  • occasional hospitalisation
  • suspensions for interference.

Michelle experiences them all, but comes through to claim the greatest prize of all.

Feel good movie

Ride Like A Girl 2Well known Australian film star Rachel Griffiths is in the director’s chair this time and does an impressive job with tight editing to keep the story moving along. The cinematography is also very appealing with the blend of ground shots and aerials views of beaches, countryside and racecourses. 

There is also plenty of humour, some involving the local convent sisters who combine to put $128 on Michelle’s mount Prince of Penzance at 100 to 1 for the Melbourne Cup.  The horse, like so many Cup winners, was bred in New Zealand. However, no-one mentions that in the film!

Ride like a Girl is currently screening at the Shoreline cinema in Waikanae.