Story

Ride Like a Girl is the true story of Michelle Payne (Teresa Palmer) and her tumultuous journey from growing up on a farm near Ballarat, Victoria, to being the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, horseracing’s toughest two-mile race.

The youngest of 10 children, Michelle is raised by her father Paddy (Sam Neill) who loses his wife in a car accident when Michelle is six months old. Michelle follows in her siblings’ footsteps and leaves school at 15 to become a jockey. Michelle’s dreams take her to the ‘big smoke’, where she faces the harsh reality of sexism in horseracing and struggles to find a horse owner to take a chance on her. After early setbacks and with the support of her brother, Stevie Payne (played by himself), she starts to make some headway.

After a family tragedy and a near fatal fall from a horse, Michelle must reconsider her dreams. The doctors and her siblings all advise her to give up horseracing, but she still has the support of her dad and Stevie. And then Michelle meets Prince of Penzance and decides to get back on a horse.

Overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles and a suspension for careless riding, Michelle is given an opportunity to ride in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. With odds of 100 to 1 and Stevie as Prince’s strapper, Michelle makes history as a trailblazer for women in sport.

Themes

Death, including death of a parent; excessive exercise and calorie restriction; sexism

Violence

Ride Like a Girl has some violence. For example:

  • Siblings throw bread rolls at each other at the dinner table.
  • Siblings grab a young girl’s hair after she eats the Christmas pudding and refuses to do her chores.
  • A father forces his son’s injured ankle into his riding boot and the son winces in pain.
  • A father kicks over a chair in the hospital after hearing that his daughter is in a coma.

Sexual references

Ride Like a Girl has some sexual references. For example, Michelle asks a male horse owner if he’ll let her have a ride on one of his horses. He replies, ‘That depends on whether you give me one’.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Ride Like a Girl shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Family members drink alcohol at a wedding.
  • People drink alcohol after a race to celebrate.

Nudity and sexual activity

Ride Like a Girl has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, a newly engaged and later married couple kiss each other.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in Ride Like a Girl:

  • Michelle has Coke Zero and Berocca for breakfast before the Melbourne Cup.
  • On the day of the Melbourne Cup, people go into TABs to put bets on the race.

Coarse language

Ride Like a Girl has some coarse language and insults, including ‘shut up’, ‘bloody idiot’, ‘dingbat’, ‘stuff all’ and ‘welcome home, stinky’. The movie also features Michelle’s famous quote after the race, when she tells her critics they can ‘get stuffed’.

After an argument with her siblings, young Michelle says her mum would stand up for her if her mum was alive. She says, ‘I’m going to dig up mum’.

There’s also some coarse humour in Ride Like a Girl. For example, a child farts during church service and his siblings laugh.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Directed by Rachel Griffiths, Ride Like a Girl is a heartwarming movie that gives meaning to the cliche, ‘If you fall off, get back on the horse’. Stevie Payne, who has Down syndrome and plays himself in the movie, is a standout. His comedic moments, hard work and compassion shine in the movie. Importantly, the movie doesn’t shy away from controversy and allows the audience to see the dangerous side of horseracing. It’s suitable for a family with older children and teenagers.

The main messages from this movie are that women can do or be anything if they keep trying. The movie also emphasises the importance of family.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include perseverance, resilience, faith, community and family.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the following:

  • Sexism: throughout the movie men tell Michelle that she isn’t good enough or should go back to where she belongs. Men often make sexual jokes at her expense and it affects her mental health.
  • Women in sport: what does it take for a woman to be successful in a male-dominated sport?
  • The dangerous side of being a jockey including low weight: a school nun thinks Michelle has bulimia because she leaves class frequently during the day. Her father says, ‘I’ll take it you’ve never been a jockey’. Later in the movie, Michelle loses 3 kg in one week to meet weight for a race. She drastically reduces her food consumption and eats only an orange for dinner. She also wraps herself in cling wrap and garbage bags and turns the heat up in her car to lose water weight. This might be confronting for younger viewers, and we recommend that you talk with your children about the dangers of these practices for jockeys.