26 September 2023

Ride Like a Girl

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Rachel Griffiths, Universal Sony Screen Entertainment.

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Stevie Payne, Brooke Satchwell.

Dreams are a girl’s best friend or for anyone, for that matter. So jockey Michelle Payne was in her element for dreaming the impossible — about winning the Melbourne Cup.

This is her amazing true story, a biopic of Payne from central Victoria who, in 2015, became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in its 150-year-plus history.

Rachel Griffiths’ debut directorial feature film is crammed with sentimentality and distinctive genuineness.

Michelle (Palmer, December Boys) is the youngest of 10 children, raised by her single father Paddy (Neill, The Piano, Jurassic Park, My Brilliant Career)), a veteran trainer. She leaves school at 15 to become a jockey and after early failures she finds her feet, but a family tragedy, followed by her own near-fatal horse fall all but ends the dream.

However, it is the love of her father and her brother Stevie (Payne) that ensures Michelle will not give up. Against all the medical advice, and the protests of her siblings, she rides on, and meets the Prince of Penzance. The connection between Payne and her ‘Prince’ is remarkable. Together they overcame impossible odds for a shot at the dream: a ride at odds of 100-to-1. The rest, as they say, is a memorable record.

Paddy Payne saw the abilities of his children and encouraged them. He tells his daughter about the ‘gap’ – an all-important moment when a horse race is won or lost. “The only thing that matters are the odds you give yourself.” Powerful words!

Payne, who pursued her dreams with courage, resolve and determination, overcame great physical and mental adversity. Top marks to Palmer for her portrayal of Michelle. Even her real-life brother Stevie got to act in Ride Like A Girl.

It’s impressive and inspiring!

What year did Michelle Payne win the Melbourne Cup? If your answer is correct, then you could be one of our three Blu-ray winners of Ride Like A Girl. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 24 February 2020. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 25 February 2020.

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