What is the story about?
Rei, a plastic surgeon, gets a call from her high-school friend, Nanae after a decade. When they meet, Rei, who has always harboured romantic feelings for Nanae, is shocked when she learns Nanae is a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband Kotaro. Luring Kotaro with sex, Rei murders him, and runs away with Nanae. While both of them get into a complex amoral relationship, the police launch a massive hunt for both of them.
While watching Ride or Die, there were multiple moments when I wished I had not seen two other LGBTQ romances in the last 18 months: Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Francis Lee's Ammonite. These movies contained hardly any excitement of the footloose kind that Ride or Die revels in, but the pathos and subtlety of the female experience and the social demonization of female sexuality as being aberrant to patriarchy was very efficiently portrayed in both films, even though both were period dramas. Adapted from Ching Nakamura's bestselling manga Gunjo, Ride or Die had a vast canvas to play around with, full of limitless possibilities. Instead, what is served on screen is a disastrous mishmash of explicit sex, meandering road-trip and melodrama that would make even AltBalaji cringe. Director Ryuichi Hiroki and writer Nami Kikkawa take liberties with the narrative of the original manga (the road-trip is not there in the original story), and also liberally borrow plot elements from Gone Girl and Thelma & Louise, but the end result is a shockingly inept film that tests your patience after the first half-hour or so. Perhaps, it would have been better if it had been framed as a cautionary tale about manipulation in love. At times, it feels as if the point of making this entire film was to pitch it as a public service announcement for explicit lesbian sex scenes, rather than tell a strong story. As with other Netflix titles such as 365 DNI and Dark Desire, this film might get into the Top 10 trending titles, but if you think it's for the story, you'll be mistaken.
Kiko Mizuhara shines as Rei, which is impressive considering this is a shoddily-scripted film. There's a lot of sadness and optimism that flicker across Mizuhara's eyes every once in a while, and she perfectly captures the duality of being someone who has sexual agency as a lesbian, but no emotional agency as a lover to Nanae. Honami Sato's Nanae is so insufferable to watch that you're never really sure whether she is a bad actress or hamming intentionally. The rest of the cast is okay.
Music & Other Departments
Some of the songs chosen for the soundtrack are good. Koki Moriyama's score is okay. Tadashi Kuwabara's cinematography works wonders in this otherwise-vacuous film.
There are some sequences that are inventive. In one, the investigation of the site of Kotaro's murder is set to Norah Jones's Shoot the Moon, and expertly interwoven with Rei and Nanae's road-trip.
This film has no idea what it wants to be. Hiroki and Kikkawa keep the tone of the story constantly flitting between shock, melodrama and titillation, and honestly it ends up being neither.
Because of the numerous explicit sex scenes, this film cannot be watched with families. Yet, it seems at times as if the makers decided to make this film for the express purpose of weaving a story around the erotic scenes.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
No. You will find far better options if you are in the mood for LGBTQ romantic dramas.