Film Review: Inspirational Drama ‘The Ride’ Soars With Its Uplifting Message Of Second Chances6 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
The inspiring story of a BMX champion who overcame an abusive childhood through the love and life lessons of his interracial foster family.
Director: Alex Ranarivelo
Cast: Shane Graham, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sasha Alexander, Blake Sheldon, John Buultjens
Runtime: 98 minutes
The Ride is a fantastic pick-me-up with its heartwarming story detailing the power of second chances — and how we are all capable of sharing this with the world through patience and understanding. Airtight in its pacing, the sports drama speeds through the highs and lows of the genre, with short but essential detours touching on racism in America. The film dazzles with both its showcase of incredible BMX tricks and the heart carried by its characters.
The Ride is based on the true story of BMX star and foster care activist John Buultjens’s tumultuous life. His early years were coloured by trauma within a broken family, leading to an altercation with his abusive father that got him into foster care before having his life changed by his adopted family.
Shifting his story from Glasgow to America, the film’s John Buultjens (Shane Graham) has an equally rough start in life. Looking to protect his mother, a seven-year-old John stabs his abusive father with a kitchen knife and is sent away to juvenile prison, left alone in an equally harsh environment. Seven years later, he is finally given a second chance when a couple, Eldridge (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Marianna (Sasha Alexander), decide to adopt him.
As with most excellent sports dramas, there is less emphasis on the actual sport and more placed on the humanity behind them. Eldridge and Marianna have a tall task ahead of them. Even as they recognise John’s talent and gentleness, he is still a troubled child who has never known tender love and care. What he does know is rebellion, conflict, and deep-seated, unfounded racism stemming from his unwilling involvement with the Aryan Brotherhood as a child.
The latter point is particularly abrasive, being a key source of tension between John and his African-American adoptive father; the Swastika painfully etched behind John’s ear seemingly symbolising an uncrossable divide. Being bullied while in juvie by African Americans exactly because of his scar only furthers the gulf.
Central to The Ride’s discussion of race is its presentation of a conflicted John — young and myopic enough to base his perspectives on his old company’s ideals, but not blind enough to recognise that these ideals are wrong. This ever-growing clash within John is expertly portrayed by Graham, first through sheer reactive disdain, before the same is preluded by inner regret and puzzlement.
Bridges, more widely known as a pop star, surprises in his starring role opposite Graham. The nuance in his performance comes from how he brings out a realistic portrayal of an adoptive parent; nobody could open-heartedly welcome a stranger into their family without doubt and fear. How these are slowly chipped away through the cultivation of the loose yet understanding relationship between father and son spectacularly culminates with several poignant moments, all answering the film’s key question of why anyone would be willing to adopt troubled children.
The Ride succeeds in championing the cause of foster care but leaves its handling of racism wanting, such as with the tonal inconsistencies afforded between John and the film’s antagonists. John’s old clique reappears to throw a wrench between father and son, although by this point he has decidedly rebelled against his past self. Their appearance feels far too convenient, almost like an emergency injection of conflict. It is not helped by how the paper-thin characters’ irredeemability — other than with John’s brother Rory (Blake Sheldon) — is seemingly incongruent with the film’s emphasis on second chances.
Other than through his adoptive family, John’s second chance also comes in the form of BMX, which he quickly discovers a knack for. While the film’s pacing is terrific in bringing across its more sentimental messages, these were seemingly due to having to truncate training montages. This had the unfortunate side effect of portraying John as a BMX genius, going from being unable to ride a bike to pull off tricks while jumping down a flight of stairs seemingly within the span of months. The stunts on display are definitely spectacular but it is distracting how the film does not hide the fact that stuntmen and professionals were used for these moments.
It leads to the BMX competition John participates in to feel inconsequential — but then again, triumph within the sport is hardly The Ride’s message. It’s about celebrating the wings that have allowed John to fly; allowed him to let go of his past and trust his new family to catch him if he falls.
The Ride compiles and condenses all the highlights of the sports drama genre into a wholesome package. The film is so incisive with nailing emotional beats that it can feel rigid in structure — yet, by far, the most impressive trick displayed here is the numerous twists and surprises it packs in the storytelling and performances, sure to catch even the sternest viewer off guard with its tender moments.
Singapore charity Fei Yue’s 30th-anniversary fundraiser aims to support essential initiatives including Fei Yue’s Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) – targeted at enabling special needs children from low-income families through occupational and speech therapy — as well as Fei Yue’s Active Ageing Centres (AAC).
The fundraiser has raised over $135,000 so far from more than 200 donors across Singapore. Running till end-July, $115,000 will be needed to reach the target goal of $250,000, which will support Fei Yue’s EIPIC and AAC programmes and more than 1,500 beneficiaries.
Each $100 donation will entitle donors to two passes to catch The Ride on Salt Media & Entertainment’s streaming service, SMIX, valid for three months upon receipt. Donors can also pay it forward by gifting their online movie passes to Fei Yue’s beneficiaries.