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Along for the Ride Review: Emma Pasarow's teen romance is a breezy take on young love and self-identity

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride Cast: Emma Pasarow, 

Along for the Ride Director: Sofia Alvarez, Belmont Cameli, Andie Macdowell

Along for the Ride Stars: 3/5

For most people, as they age, their most cherished memories remain from the time when they were young and particularly in a phase of life that allowed them to be the most authentic version of themselves. There’s a reason why we associate the term rebellious with a teenager because it’s exactly at that time in their lives when things don’t seem as black and white to them and their worldview of things has a sense of naivety. Author Sarah Dessen knows well how to capture the lives of these young adults she does so in one of her best-selling novels Along for the Ride as well, which has now been turned into a film by Netflix. 

For fans of Dessen, the Along for the Ride movie is a special one as it brings to the screen a literary character that many teenage girls identified with, which is that of Auden West.  What’s even more special is that the writer of the To All the Boys films,  Sofia Alvarez comes on board as the director for this film, thus promising that it will remain a sweet experience much like the TATB franchise which met with massive success already. In my opinion, when it comes to YA rom-coms, as predictable as the story may be, so much of the weight lies on the film’s performances and in this one, I quite enjoyed how Emma Pasarow effortlessly settles into Auden’s role. 

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The film follows Auden West (Emma Pasarow), an awkward teenager who doesn’t have a social life regular social life and her high-school experience isn’t about going to the prom and boys but rather focused on securing her future. Although during her summer break, the daughter of two academics realises that she has missed out on experiencing an entire phase of her life and finds an exciting company to fulfil her ‘quest’ list with. Auden who goes to stay with her father Robert (Dermot Mulroney) in the small beachside town of Colby during the summer after graduating high school comes across Eli (Belmont Cameli), a fellow nocturnal who goes on bike rides at night. The two soon form a friendship that slowly turns into more as they team up to fulfil Auden’s list of teenage experiences. While figuring out her own identity, Auden (Pasarow) is also dealing with her divorced parents’ starkly different personas and her stepmother Heidi (Kate Bosworth) is also added to the mix. 

For those who have read Sarah Dessen’s novel, you must be aware of how well she combines Auden’s coming-of-age tale with a budding young romance in the book. As for the film adaptation though, much of Auden’s persona, unfortunately, seems to have been limited to being an introvert as opposed to the literary character who is a perfectionist and well-functioning adult stuck in the body of a young person who finds it hard to adjust to those around her. The film does capture Auden’s nature to quickly pass judgement on things quite well and it’s particularly well expressed when she visits a party in the neighbourhood and is surprised to know that one of the fellow partygoers is also a reader like her. Although moments such as this are few and far in the film.

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The main focus of the story remains Auden and Eli’s budding friendship which further turns into a romance. The duo become each other’s unlikely companions as both are struggling with things neither of them would be able to face alone. While Auden goes through social anxiety and the burden that a child goes through with self-obsessed divorced parents, Eli on the other hand himself is dealing with complex emotions with the loss of his closest friends. What’s appreciative about this film is that it doesn’t dig too deeply into these characters and hopes to be a film that’s meant for a weekend watch. It’s on the surface emotions work well because of their intent to remain entertaining and fresh. 

Along with the Ride finds itself among a list of Netflix releases that capture the summer romance vibe.  As Sofia Alvarez makes her directorial debut with this film, she is well aware of what her audience wants and hence keeps the story of the film straightforward. Although much of her focus remains on Auden’s romantic life than her dealing with her emotions and self-identity. The scenes between Pasarow and her mother played by Andie Macdowell are particularly the best ones. 

ALSO READ: Kate Bosworth CELEBRATES Remember the Titans’ 21st anniversary; Says Ryan Gosling was a ‘total sweetheart’

In terms of performances, Emma Pasarow for me seems the perfect choice to play a character like Auden. She brings the character’s insecurities, her introverted nature, and her changed mannerisms alongside Eli (Cameli) incredibly well. As for her love interest, Belmont Cameli also brings out both of Eli’s sides well as he tries to open up to Auden but at the same time is also dealing with some difficult emotions by himself. As for the film’s adult characters, Dermot Mulroney, Andie Macdowell and Kate Bosworth, all three bring their best. 

In terms of teen dramas, sometimes it’s a good chance to see something as simplistic as this tale. Along for the Ride is the kind of film you want to put on for light entertainment. It makes for a breezy watch without making you too involved or invested in the characters’ lives and the best thing is that it’s a film that lets you hit play and pause whenever you want, without making you feel guilty or anxious about imagining what happens ahead. This is what popcorn entertainment should be. 

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