"Free Ride" is an indie true crime drama written and directed by Shana Betz. It's based on Betz's life during the 1970s when her mother left her abusive boyfriend to make a better life in Florida, only to be seduced into transporting illegal drugs. Academy Award winner Anna Paquin ("The Piano") plays mother Christina in a powerful performance.
Betz was the youngest daughter; in the movie she is named Shell and played by adorable little actress Ava Acres. Liana Liberato ("Stuck in Love") plays MJ, the angry 15-year-old daughter and Drea de Matteo plays Sandy, Christina's old friend from their go-go dancing days.
It is Sandy who introduces Christina to the drug smuggling biz in Florida but she does it sideways by first getting Christina a job house cleaning for her boss, "The Captain" played by Lloyd Owen.
At the beginning of the film we see Christina (Paquin) living in Ohio where her boyfriend is repeatedly knocking her around in front of her girls. Trying to be a better mom, one day Christina loads up the car, picks the girls up from school, announces they’re moving, and drives them down to Florida.
Shana's memoir/screenplay portrays her mother as deeply flawed but does it with love. Despite Christina's terrible choices, that include getting wasted in front of her children and traveling frequently to transport drugs for the Captain, she is still a sympathetic, pitiable character. The most disturbing part of the movie is seeing Christina and Sandy (de Matteo) debase themselves like hookers to stay in good favor with the boss. They wear skimpy clothes and gyrate around and obviously think that's all they are worth.
It's a moving druggy drama that shows the complexities of living a life with few options. The main cast includes Cam Gigandet and Jeff Hephner. Smaller roles are played by Yvette Yates, Daniella Garcia-Lorido, Lloyd Owen and Eddie Pepitone.
The film was shot entirely in Sarasota County, Florida. Anna Paquin, 31, is one of the producers of the movie and Stephen Moyer, 44, her husband and "True Blood" costar is an executive producer. The couple has photogenic one-year-old fraternal twins named Charlie and Poppy.
'Free Ride' will open in New York City theaters in limited release on January 10, 2014 and will be available On Demand. Unrated. 86 minutes.