Review: Ride Like a Girl

Teresa Palmer in Ride Like a Girl

Ride Like a Girl is a title aimed exactly at at the demographic known as me. It’s not to be resisted, in fact, it must be watched.

Ride Like a Girl is the true story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. If the title and the lead character weren’t enough to tempt me, the film was directed by first time director Rachel Griffiths.

Michelle Payne, played by Teresa Palmer as an adult, was the youngest of 10 children. Her mother died when she was 6 months old. She and her siblings were raised by their father Paddy Payne (Sam Neill) on a farm that raised horses and jockeys named Payne.

Sam Neill and Teresa Palmer in Ride Like a Girl

From a very early age, Michelle was determined to be a champion. Her siblings rode and raced for a while, but settled down with families and responsibilities as they grew older. Michelle never looked away from being the best jockey and the jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. Never mind that female jockeys weren’t allowed to race in the Melbourne Cup when she started training.

Her father, who had already lost one daughter to a racing accident, couldn’t bear the idea of her racing. She did anyway.

Michelle lost a lot of races and suffered many injuries. She faced sexism and resistance from other jockeys. Many owners dismissed her.

Stevie Payne and Teresa Palmer in Ride Like a Girl
Stevie Payne played himself in the film

Michelle’s brother Stevie, who had Down’s Syndrome, helped her. He was good with horses, with the training, and with the logistics of her races.

Stevie was the reason Michelle met Darren Weir (Sullivan Stapleton), who owned the gelding Prince of Penzance. She knew immediately she wanted to ride (and win) with this horse. She had some convincing to do to get Weir and the other owners to agree with her and let her race.

Even as an ordinary biopic with all the beats you expect from such a film, Ride Like a Girl is still inspiring and a thrill to watch. Michelle Payne was the extraordinary thing in this story.

Poster for Ride Like a Girl

I hadn’t heard the story of this courageous and amazing woman before. I was happy to learn about her in this film. She’s a hero.

If you check out this Australian film, I’d love to know your thoughts. You can see it on Netflix or rent it on Amazon Prime.

3 thoughts on “Review: Ride Like a Girl”

  1. Enjoy Old Ain’t Dead, in part ‘cos I’m in that demographic too. Just watched Ride Like a Girl on Netflix. Having retired after working 3 decades on an inpatient rehab unit (trauma and neurological misfortune, not prisoners or addicted folks), the struggle after one of Ms. Payne’s many injuries is given its due. Brother Stevie is a plus as well. My spouse’s father was a racehorse trainer and that aspect feels real too. I’d say outstanding and moving first feature film, especially as “feel good” movies all too often annoy me.

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