Ride Like a Girl (PG)

Ride Like a Girl (PG)

Director: Rachel Griffiths

Runtime: 1h 38min

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Stephen Payne, Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton, Genevieve Morris, Magda Szubanski

SYNOPSIS: The inspirational story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup despite facing odds of a 100 to 1.

For her feature directorial debut, actor Rachel Griffiths brings us the true story of a female jockey in Australia. The incredible and inspirational story of Michelle Payne is an all-round feel good family film.

As a little girl, Michelle Payne (Teresa Palmer) dreams of the impossible: winning the Melbourne Cup, horse-racing’s toughest two-mile race. The youngest of ten children, Michelle is raised by single father Paddy (Sam Neill) after the tragic death of her mother when she was a baby. She leaves school aged fifteen to become a jockey.       After early failures she finds her feet, but a family tragedy, followed by her own near fatal horse fall, all but ends her dreams. However, with the love of her dad and her brother Stevie (a warm and natural performance from the real Stevie Payne), Michelle is sure not to give up. Against all medical advice, and the protests of her other siblings, she rides on, eventually meeting her perfect horse, the gelding Prince of Penzance. Together they overcome impossible odds for a shot at the dream – a ride in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, at odds of 100 to 1. The rest is history, the incredible true story of Michelle Payne.

Playing Michelle, Teresa Palmer [A Discovery of Witches (TV Series – 2018), Berlin Syndrome (2017), Hacksaw Ridge (2016)] is totally convincing as the youngest of ten siblings being raised by the single-minded horse trainer Paddy Payne (Sam Neill, perfect as a practical, protective dad). After her mother died when she was six months old, Paddy used racing methods to organise the family activities. A giant chalkboard hangs in the house, tracking the status of various horses, and Paddy is constantly listening in, even during family meals, to hear the results of races he can’t attend.

With this background it was inevitable that Michelle would want to become a jockey like seven of her siblings before her, but Paddy is protective of her, keeping his ‘Little Girl’ in a long and to her endless apprenticeship. When her first minor races all lead to disappointment, Paddy suggests it might be time to send the girl back to school, where the nuns think she has an eating disorder as she tries to lose weight. Barely off the track after winning a race, she is devastated to learn that her older sister has been thrown from her own horse and killed. This leads Paddy to grow far more protective of his youngest child.  Michelle will later have to battle to recover from serious injuries after a similar fall.

 

Michelle ignores her father’s concerns and ventures off to start her own career as a jockey, facing sexism, sexual harassment and petty exclusions before getting her chance to ride a serious horse. Then she has to lose three kilograms to comply with the race’s weight qualification.

Meanwhile, Michelle’s brother Stevie – a young man with Down’s Syndrome – is starting his career in racing. He meets a horse owner who appreciates his ability to soothe nervous and excitable animals, and now he and Michelle can dream of a future running their own horse farm.

It isn’t necessary to know about racing or horses to warm to this feel good, family film.  Hearts will melt when Michelle meets the gelding, Prince of Penzance, and the two finally make it to the famed Melbourne Cup race. The bookies’ odds are stacked against them at “impossible to one” – but history is about to be made…

Streaming on Amazon Prime and digital platforms

Images courtesy of Lionsgate