Tragedy Turns Into Triumph in Netflix’s All-American ‘Walk. Ride. Rodeo.’
The remarkable true story of a young woman’s quest to reclaim her life following a devastating accident is dramatised in Netflix’s latest original film, “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” Spencer Locke stars as Amberley Snyder, a teen barrel racer who pushes herself to max everyday in order to be one of the top female competitors on the rodeo circuit. In an ironic and tragic twist, Amberley becomes paralyzed not from an equestrian accident, but as the result of losing control of her truck. While driving in rural Wyoming, she takes her eyes off the rode for a brief second in order to reach for a map, and in an instant her life is forever changed. What ensues is Amberley’s physically strenuous and emotionally taxing journey to once again walk, ride her horse, and participate in the rodeo, but not necessarily in that order.
“Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” benefits greatly from the participation of the real Snyder, who, along with her young sister Autumn (portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind onscreen), performed the impressive riding stunts. Rodeo is one of the few distinctly American forms of entertainment, and the cast and director Conor Allyn, with assistance from Snyder, do a fine job of bringing to life that world and showing the hard work and dedication it takes to being a rodeo star. There is also, of course, plenty of country music, a bonus for anybody into that sort of thing.
While the film can definitely be called wholesome — It certainly makes use of the tropes often found in TV movies made by the likes of Disney and Hallmark — Amberley’s journey isn’t always pretty. We see her broken body on the side of the rode, and after she is rescued, her arduous road to recovery. Until the end, at least, high-energy montages are avoided. Instead, long scenes are dedicated to Amberley’s rehab and recovery, a process that isn’t linear, but filled with ups and downs, not just to due to her physical condition, but also to her mental state. Stellar character actress Missi Pyle co-stars as Tina, Amberley’s mother whose pain is palpable as she struggles to help her child, a situation that often leaves her feeling helpless and drained. There’s also some religion sprinkled in thanks to a nurse played by Sherri Shepherd who encourages Amberly to embrace a higher power.
The weakness of “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” lies in its dialogue, which often times feels on-the-nose and trite. Still, Pyle does her best with the material and gives an emotional performance, and Locke does what she can to rise to her co-star’s level. There’s also a romance wedged in that doesn’t really add much to the story, as it probably would have been more effective to keep the focus on Amberley and her recovery and career. Still, actor Max Ehrich adds a little bit of flavor as fictional rodeo guy Tate Watkins, as does Corbin Bleu, who plays Amberley’s encouraging physical therapist.
“Walk. Ride. Rodeo” begins streaming March 8 on Netflix.