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REVIEW: Michelle Payne biopic Ride Like A Girl a sincere, heartfelt triumph

In 2015, Michelle Payne fulfilled her childhood dream and became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

Ride like a Girl is her story.

The years leading up to her date with destiny were filled with heartbreak, horrific injury, and triumph, but also with loads of love.

The youngest of 10 siblings, Michelle (Palmer) never knew her mother who died when she was just six months old. Her father Paddy (Neill), a stern, hardworking and deeply religious man, didn’t see his daughter’s gender as a barrier to her being a great jockey.

To his mind, it was her reluctance to follow his rules that would be her undoing.

In fact, Paddy refused to see any barriers for his children, including Stevie (played by the real-life Stevie Payne who has Down syndrome and was Michelle’s strapper, best friend, and greatest cheerleader.

He probably still is.

The pair, as the two youngest siblings, share a unique bond that provided some of the movie’s funniest, cheekiest and most memorable moments.

Should I watch it?

Yeah, you should. I loved this movie. I really did.

It’s about love and family. It’s about the bonds between a father and daughter. The bonds between siblings and especially, the bond between Michelle and Stevie.

I had no idea that, in 2001, Michelle fell from a horse, fractured her skull and had injuries so severe, she was told she would never ride again.

They may as well have said she would never breathe again. But she got herself back into that saddle because she wanted her dream.

However, all this struggle, all the years of relentless toil to succeed in an industry that simply didn’t want her. In one poignant scene, she is literally standing on the outside of a glass room; tiny, alone in the cold and dark, ignored as male jockeys walk in and are welcomed like conquering heroes.

It’s appalling and all too familiar to any woman who works in a male-dominated industry.

And that brings me to my sole criticism of this movie.

I understand its Michelle’s story, it’s her life and her experiences, but it could’ve gone a little harder on the sexism, especially in the current climate.

I thought maybe with Rachel Griffiths as the director and the outspoken Palmer as her lead, we might’ve seen a little more cinematic argy-bargy. Alas, it was not to be.

With that aside, at its core, this is a movie about a woman fighting against all the odds to achieve her dream of winning the Melbourne Cup.

The movie is sincere, heartfelt and a delight to watch.

There’s also this …. the Goddess, known as Magda Szubanski dressed as a nun, reversing a mobility scooter (beeps and all) back up to the counter of the local TAB on Melbourne Cup day to place a bet with the contents of a small Tupperware container.

It’s a slice of Aussie cinematic genius.

Ride Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry, and cheer as this tiny girl from country Victoria steps up to take her place in history.

And as always, please go out and buy a ticket and support your local movie industry.

4 stars

Running Time:  98 minutes
Release Date:  Now showing
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Brooke Satchwell, Sam Neill, Stevie Payne, Sullivan Stapleton, Magda Szubanski

Written by Sue Ellen

Copywriter. Writer. Reviewer. Coffee addict. Handbag tragic. Conspiracy tin hatter. Drama Queen.