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Many films focus on protagonists who overcome daunting obstacles to pursue life dreams. But Ride Like a Girl goes much deeper.
Embedded among the film’s many equestrian scenes are underlying themes of family love, conflict, loss, and hope. They provide a rich backdrop for a story about a young woman overcoming social barriers and physical challenges to attain her dream.
Ride Like a Girl portrays the true-life story of Michelle Payne, the youngest of 11 children (one died in infancy) born to Paddy (played by veteran actor Sam Neill) and Mary Payne. The family runs a horse farm outside the Australian town of Ballarat. Michelle is 6 months old when her mother dies in a car accident, leaving her husband to raise three sons and seven daughters.
Michelle often feels her older siblings overlook her, yet she enjoys a close relationship with Stevie (played by the real-life Stevie Payne), the next youngest, who was born with Down syndrome.
At 16, against her father’s wishes and after an older sister dies in a horse riding accident, Michelle leaves home to become a professional rider. She sustains a serious head injury in a fall, spends days in a drug-induced coma, then awakens unable to read or use her right arm. But months later she again mounts a horse and continues her quest for the Melbourne Cup.
Along the way we watch brother Stevie relate to his little sister. His quick quips show his droll sense of humor, bringing needed levity.