“Along for the Ride” just might be the indie version of “Weekend at Bernie’s” as it starts with two brothers hauling the body of their dead father for a desert road trip in their convertible. The big difference between “Ride” and “Bernie” is that this is no comedy. “Ride” is serious drama that takes the final scene of “Field of Dreams” to the next level by exploring deeper issues of father/son conflict.
Terry (Randy Batinkoff) and Vance (Dylan Haggerty) have arrived in a small, nowhere town to pick up their father’s body after his untimely death. Their intention is to lay him to rest somewhere, although they’re not quite sure where exactly. Along the journey troubling issues arise that threaten to rip the remaining family members apart. Terry is the bullying older brother to younger Vance. Older bro was a successful pitcher in major league baseball and younger bro sought a simple life as a mail carrier. Each has issues with each other made more complicated by their unresolved relationship with their father who took his obsession with baseball to extremes. In dream sequences, dead dad Jake (J.E. Freeman) who was pro ball player himself, appears “Field of Dreams”-like out of nowhere and offers fatherly advice to his bewildered sons. Okay, it’s not so much advice as dad continuing to be an a*****e. Both boys felt neglected by their father and this conflict carries over into his death. Terry and Vance battle each other and their feelings toward father on this road trip to his final resting place.
As someone who has had my share of fatherly conflict, I found this movie very effective and moving. Like many from my generation, my parents split when I was just a kid. I was nine years-old when my own father walked out leaving my mom to raise my sister and I. I saw my dad every other weekend and it was tough for me. It was strange too since I grew up on this block with a bunch of kids my own age and within less than a two year span, four families were fatherless, it was odd. It wasn’t until later, when I was in my late teens that my father and I confronted those issues and were able to express our true feelings. My dad and I are closer than ever and I count myself as one of the lucky few who have resolved all of my issues with my parents before they leave me permanently. The characters in “Ride” haven’t had it so easy and I certainly can relate to that pain. The sport of baseball is key in the film and plays into a theory of mine. You see, men are simply incapable of communicating feelings. Hardly any normal father and son can comfortably have an “I love you” exchange. This is very awkward for most men, myself included. What men can talk about effortlessly is sports. Anything sports-related is a breeze from the latest scores, standing, stats, favorite teams, favorite players, you name it. Get two guys together to talk about “feelings” and the room will be silent. Bring up “sports” and you won’t shut them up. Men communicate through sports. It’s not a good or bad thing, just something I’ve observed with some perspective now that I am a father myself.
Director Bryan Simon shot this smart indie over 13 days for a cool $150,000. The production suffered in sweltering heat of 110 degrees much of the time. The screenplay was adapted for the screen by Jim Moores from a stage play by Randall Wheatley and at times, much of the dialog has a stagey feel. This flaw is redeemed by the gorgeous desert visuals that make dialog heavy scenes beautiful to watch.
“Along for the Ride” is proof that stage plays can translate to successful indie movies if a focus is put on making the film cinematic. Now here’s the final line in the review where I could put throw in some clever quote that might be used in the marketing like “take a ‘Ride’ to see this indie” or “this ‘Ride’ is a must-see” or some hack line like that except that I won’t. All I will say is that I recommend “Ride” for those in search of solid independent filmmaking.