A Journey Of Self Discovery
How far are you willing to go for the person you love? In Director Ryuichi Hiroki’s latest feature, this question forms the core of the movie. Combining a conventional road trip of self discovery with a cat and mouse chase against the authorities, Ride or Die is a smartly written, intimate LGBTQ+ picture about love and friendship.
The story here is pretty straight forward but it’s split across a few different timelines. The films opens with a cold prologue, with a woman named Rei Nagasawa arriving at a bar. Once there, she hooks up with a married man and makes sure he takes her back to his apartment. What follows is a shocking, blood-soaked killing, one that sees Rei off on the run, snatching up her lover Nanae Tsujimura and hitting the road.
Through flashbacks – both to Rei’s high school days and a week prior to this incident – we see the complicated bond Nanae and Rei share. This intimate tie is ultimately what keeps the film moving, as the road trip winds through different villages and sights along the way.
Each time though, the movie dives deeper into the duo’s personas and hidden feelings. Both characters are deeply flawed too, with both physical and mental scars preventing them from living in the here and now.
In its simplest form, Ride or Die plays out as a “lovers on the run” story, taking cues from 1991’s Thelma and Louise most notably. You really do have to go in with some patience with this though, and the 2.5 hour run-time can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog. Thankfully, the film throws in some absolutely gorgeous backdrops along the way to really show off the beauty of Japan.
What begins as a ride through the urban jungle of Tokyo soon opens up in the best way as the pair explore the rural landscape and neighboring villages. This visual change isn’t just tied to eye-candy though, it also reflects the journey these two characters take.
What begins as a suffocating experience of twinkling lights and cacophonous urban noise soon opens up to show bright sunlight twinkling off tranquil water and brilliantly green trees home to birdsong. In a way it’s the visual motif of experiencing freedom and becoming one with nature.
There’s also an interesting, recurring motif of a bed in this movie too. Of course, beds can be interpreted as a personal connection between characters – or even of dreams themselves – and these ideas are explored and challenging throughout the picture.
Alongside the visuals is the soundtrack, which is chock full of great tracks. These have all been deliberately chosen of course, with some more subtle than others. “The Cardigans – Lovefool” for example, representing one of the more on-the-nose choices to show character feelings.
If you can go in with some patience here and persevere through some of the slower and more quiet character moments, Ride or Die delivers a joyous road trip worth taking. There’s a sense of inevitability hanging to parts of this bittersweet picture, but the movie makes sure the plot plays second fiddle to its two female protagonists.
This is ultimately what helps this movie stand out and deliver a unique road trip worth taking. And while the journey is perilous and full of bumps, this LGBTQ+ movie reaches a very satisfying destination by the end.