“Along the Ride” review
It’s perhaps too bold to say that coming-of-age dramas are Netflix’s bread and butter, but with the success of teen movie series like To all the boys I’ve loved before and The kissing booth, you can’t deny that Netflix has invested heavily in its teen movies. Whether they taste good or not is a matter of personal taste.
Back in 2019Netflix has signed a deal with famed YA author Sarah Dessen to adapt three of her books into movies. On the way for the ride is the first film to materialize from the deal.
The film follows a smart but socially awkward teenager, Auden (Emma Pasarow), who has decided to spend the summer before college with her father (Dermot Mulroney) and his new family in a beautiful seaside town. She works as an accountant in the clothing store of her friendly but haggard stepmother (Kate Bosworth), and after a rocky start with the local clique of popular girls, finds herself inducted into their circle of friends.
It’s not until she meets Eli (Belmont Cameli), a loner who suffers from the same insomniac disorder as her, that she begins to truly change and learn to be more open to what life has to offer. , including love.
Pasarow does a decent job as a leader. She completely sells you on the goofy, smart Auden. She just wants to connect with people her own age, however, she’s not quite sure how to do it. At the start of the film, she either jumps into situations too soon, or shuts down just when she’s about to make a meaningful connection. You can’t help cheering Auden on, and the vulnerability Pasarow brings makes it possible.
Cameli also brings the same vulnerability to her role as Eli. He’s able to flex his acting muscles beyond the comedic character he portrays on Peacock’s saved by the bell reboot and bring to life a young man who mourns the loss of a loved one and tries to find a way to get over his grief.
Bosworth’s character is likable and a welcome subversion of the usual wicked stepmother cliche. Mulroney is excellent as a distant, career-focused father who runs the risk of losing his family, old and new, if he doesn’t learn to be present in the lives of those who love him. Andie McDowell portrays Auden’s snippy mother who ends up providing much-needed advice to her ex-husband’s new wife and, ironically, helps save their marriage. Again, it’s refreshing to see a narrative in which new and old spouses support each other instead of trying to destroy each other.
Laura Kariuki as Maggie is another character worth mentioning. She’s a queen bee who warms up to Auden after a rocky start and invites her into the popular crowd. She’s a welcome subversion of the usual popular girl for several reasons: she’s African American in a largely white town, but revered and admired. She’s a BMX rider, and she’s empathetic and caring. I couldn’t help but think she should have been the main character. It is certainly more convincing.
ALONG THE WALK (2022), Emma Pasarow as Auden, Andie McDowell as Victoria. cr. Emily V. Aragones/Netflix
Although Along the ride doesn’t necessarily borrow a lot of new ground in the arena of coming-of-age romance, it’s a lovely movie with a great message about learning to define yourself on your own terms, dealing with grief and openness to life-changing experiences.
Along the ride is streaming on Netflix.