When John McCord walked out of the state-run children’s center that had housed him for years, it seemed that his white supremacist mindset was as permanent as the swastika etched on his neck. But his new foster parents thought otherwise.

In a time when tragic deaths and protests have drawn renewed attention to the issue of racism in the U.S., “The Ride” offers a reality check and a sign of hope. 

Based on the life of BMX champion John Buultjens, the film from ESX Entertainment tells the story of a teenager whose adoption by an interracial couple (along with his knack for bike stunts) changes his life forever. Through a tight script and solid acting, director Alex Ranarivelo delivers a pertinent message for today’s culture: Softening a heart hardened by hatred is an arduous process, but with perseverance, it can be transformative.

John’s foster parents, Eldridge (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and MaryAnna (Sasha Alexander), are far from naive. They know his profile, and they know what they’ve signed up for. On top of an abusive situation at home and multiple run-ins with the police, John’s past life has inculcated him into a racist worldview that makes him cringe when he meets his African American foster father. 


The tension doesn’t subside when they bring him to their comfortable suburban home, complete with his own room and new clothes. Each day they drop him off at school, John shrinks away from the car window, ashamed to be seen with a black man. 

Throughout the film, the struggle comes across not so much from these incidents themselves but from Eldridge and MaryAnna’s reactions to them. Both give way to outbursts of anger, frustration, or exasperation when the demands of raising John weigh on them. These moments illustrate the all-too-familiar reality of human weakness in trying to do the right thing. 

However, the shortcomings of these characters makes them no less noble. On the contrary, it is their perseverance through the challenges that makes them shine. In them, we see that transforming someone’s life and heart requires more than friendly smiles and a comfortable house. It takes a free and continual choice to love against all odds.

John’s foster parents make that choice repeatedly, not just with words but also with deeds. When Eldridge sees that John wants to learn how to ride a bike, he commits to teaching him, promising not to quit if John won’t. Later, he offers encouragement and help when John becomes more invested in stunt training and competing.

Even more importantly, Eldridge and MaryAnna forgive John whenever he gets in trouble or rejects their attempts to care for him. Because they recognize how his past has battered him, and because they see potential in him, they refuse to pass up their parental commitment.

But their prominent role in the film offers more than a model of good parenting. It also serves as a reminder of the healing power of self-giving in any human relationship. We see this through the impact of John’s new life on how he approaches new friendships, his team, and those who scarred him in the past.

What makes “The Ride” so uplifting is that it not only portrays relentless human love, but also points beyond that love to a more transcendent theme. That is, Eldridge and MaryAnna’s love for John echoes the divine love that applies to all of us. Just as God created each human person in an act of total self-gift, so they chose to take in John, not to gain anything, but to give him the familial love he needs. 

Just as God sees something lovable in each of us, no matter how abundant our flaws might be, so they see good in him despite his disturbing history. And just as God never tires of forgiving each of us, so they repeatedly forgive John, hoping that persevering love will win him over.

Without being an explicitly Christian film, “The Ride” conveys the message that in the face of every evil, no one is beyond redemption. Through the powerful dramatization of a true story, this film urges viewers to give and receive love without reserve. By doing that, one can hope to drown a culture of hatred in death in a flood of love and new life.

“The Ride” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.