A movie called Free Ride that invokes the old “gas, grass, or ass” mantra via voiceover narration pretty clearly wants viewers to consider the possibility that nothing comes easily, especially when said movie is about drug-running in late-’70s Florida.
But Shana Betz’s autobiographical film, in which Anna Paquin stars as the writer-director’s mother Christina, barely delves into the physical and emotional fallout of this heyday before walking it back with an epilogue that reveals (mild spoilers to follow) things didn’t actually turn out so badly in the end.
Christina and her two daughters (one of whom would go on to make this movie) go from sleeping in their car to living in a house of their own mere weeks after the matriarch starts working for a powerful drug smuggler; the kids are so fixated on the shiny new digs that they either don’t question the implications of their new homestead or simply don’t care.
It’s clear to viewers that this can’t be headed anywhere good long before it dawns on Christina, who makes for such a myopic protagonist that summoning anything other than a mild distaste for her requires more effort than the character warrants.
Free Ride doesn’t use the benefit of over three decades’ worth of hindsight to condemn, condone, or even really comment on most of this; the film is content to merely document certain happenings and hope you find them as interesting as it does.