Ride the Eagle heroically dismantles the victimhood of estrangement in an unconventional, moving portrait of family love.
Leif (Jake Johnson) is a middle-aged, vagrant spectator of his own life. Estranged from his mother as a child, he is a cliché of hiding from his feelings and his own ticking age clock with the usual suspects of hanging out with kids in their twenties and renting an abode in the backyard of a hilariously played LA fair-weather friend.
When Leif receives notice of his estranged mother’s death and her conditional will, his real life begins. From beyond the grave, Leif’s mother, Honey (Susan Sarandon), bequeaths her mountain home to Leif with a conditional task list.
Honey excels as a free-spirited and highly sexed mountain retreat living woman (if we believe the passionate stares off into the distance by her grumpy bereft mountain lover, Carl, played by J.K. Simmons). Carl is a force unleashed, at times crude, loving, and all the time hilarious.
The task list ignites the action of the story; calls to the one who got away, a break-and-enter and survival in the wild, are at the top of the task list. Set in the mountain wilds of Yosemite, it is not hard to follow the camera lens into pure cinema escapism.
The film’s merit is in the redemptive story arc of a man going through the motions of life without ever questioning or defining what he wants. He has never asked. But with love and guidance from beyond the grave, his mother enables her son to spread his wings. Perhaps a literal interpretation of the title, but the film is anything but corny or cliched.
The film is a gem of economy delivering bigger than its promise. Ride the Eagle encourages us all to remember we are the directors of this one life. And with courage and daring to live greatly, we have the choice to live it with wild outstanding gumption.
Ride the Eagle is Australian director Trent O’Donnell’s first feature film after working on television properties for over a decade.