Written and directed by Sofia Alvarez, Along for the Ride is based on Sarah Dessen’s young adult novel of the same name. Alvarez, no stranger to adaptations in the young adult genre (she wrote the screenplay for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and its follow-up, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You), however, misfires with her directorial debut.
The film does show potential, armed with earnest performances. The writing, unfortunately, is the letdown here. The finding-oneself idea too in this genre is all too common, and when a film goes through the same unsurprising beats, it gets hard to engage.
The precocious and bookish Auden (Emma Pasarow), having just graduated high school, has decided to spend the summer with her father and his wife in the small beach town of Colby. A loner who doesn’t quite fit in with her more exuberant peers, she chooses to introspect and internalise, maintaining a diary to express what she’s going through.
Her mother, an eminent college professor, doesn’t believe the trip will help her daughter find herself or even aid in understanding her father. She gravitates to a popular hangout for the town’s kids, feeling quickly out of place. On Auden’s frequent nocturnal visits to the pier (to read, write and observe), she notices a boy of a similar age riding his BMX bike up and down the wooden quay. An unexpected acquaintance gets made... You get the gist.
The chemistry between the leads works. Auden and Eli (Belmont Cameli) are cut from the same cloth (intense, questioning individuals), though the latter believes in living in the moment. It is an awkward beginning between the two, especially when Auden finds out Eli knows quite a bit about her life; Colby’s a small town, and Heidi brags about her all the time, apparently. Even the quest Eli draws up (a bucket list-type thing) for her to experience a more regular teenage life, helps the bonding. These parts pan out nicely in the grander scheme of things, with the natural acting prowess of Emma Pasarow and Belmont Cameli in this initial phase, being the story’s highpoint.
It is the conflict that doesn’t capture as much of the imagination, though. The music, however, is an effective ally, be it when Auden and Eli are in the car on their adventures or when she is alone with her thoughts. The dysfunctional relationship Auden shares with her absentee father does have immense potential, but barely any focus is accorded to it. Along for the Ride is par for the course, but Sofia Alvarez’s debut film, which feels more like a mash-up of films you have seen many times before, should have been much more.
Along for the Ride
Director: Sofia Alvarez