Every May, there seems to be another variety of the Summer That Changed Everything movie: School is out, a girl meets a boy, a boy likes a girl, a girl’s heart is broken by misunderstanding, and the summer ends with both parties wiser than they were before. The Netflix movie Together for the RidIt is the supreme example of this kind of film, a surprisingly elegant and intelligent romance that is equally about the power of female friendships and overcoming past trauma.
Digital Trends recently spoke with the film’s leaders, rookie Emma Pasarow and Saved by the Bellby Belmont Cameli, who both shared the challenges in making a more serious YA film, what were their favorite scenes to film, and what viewers can take away after watching the film.
Digital Trends: What has attracted you both Together for the Ride?
Emma Pasarow: Together for the Ride had all the classic stuff I want in a movie. It has love, it has adventures, it is a spectacle, it is excitement. But I think what’s unique about it is that it goes much deeper than that. And each character is more than just a classic archetype of the Nerd, the Cool Kid, and so on.
I think what’s so great about the script is Sofia Alvarez [the director] gave everyone permission to be a lot of different things, and I think that certainly drew me to Auden. She is incredibly wise, but she is very imperfect. And to be perfect herself, she limits her experiences so that she doesn’t expose herself so that she can’t fail. And I think Together for the Ride it’s not just one thing at all. It’s not just about romance or friendship or family; it’s all about those things. It’s about finding yourself and what better time to do that than the summer between high school and college when you look back on the past and wonder what you will be like in the future.
Belmont Cameli: When I first read the script, I drew many parallels between Eli’s journey and my own, and so I was able to step into his shoes very quickly, which was something I am very grateful for. And it’s an approach I haven’t done in the past to a character, but it felt right for this role.
I knew Sarah Dessen [the author of the novel that Along for the Ride is based on], but I didn’t read the book when I got the role. After I did, my friends came out of the woods, telling me how excited they were that I would be a part of the movie version.
Eli is a deceptively complex character. What was your approach to portraying him, especially in the last part of the film, where we get to know more about him?
Camels: When you first meet Eli, he’s a guy whose life is on hiatus. He denied himself because of his past and the trauma he had experienced. As we continue through the story, I think the challenge didn’t make it so that Eli was either shy or timid or lonely for some reason. Eli is the life of the feast. He is the spontaneous, reckless guy who loves to just make random choices and have problems and live carelessly. So when you first meet him, he’s very mysterious because that’s not the side he’s presenting … to anyone else. Through his relationship with Auden, that part of himself that he has pushed down and suffocated and is slowly being revived. And you see that side of him that he didn’t allow himself to be.
How did the two of you create the intense relationship between your characters?
Pasarow: That was very easy because Belmont and I immediately connected. We like the same music, we like the same comedy, we have a lot in common, but then we also have similar values.
Camels: When I met Emma, we had very fast chemistry, and now she is one of my best friends and will be for a very long time. This was the first time for both of us to lead a film from start to finish. We threw every caution to the wind and explored and discovered everything during the shooting.
Sofia made us both do character journals, which I found extremely helpful. I would write from Eli’s perspective and about his relationship with Auden. Another thing that was helpful was to get into the actual places featured in the book. The scenes you read in the novel and in the script are so vivid, so stepping into the cake shop, for example, is easy to be in Eli’s shoes right away because the world is right there. It exists for you to play.
What was the hardest part of doing it? Together for the Ride?
Camels: I think the hardest part for me was just watching a movie for the first time. It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my career and having a chance to do it in a film that I felt so attached to was great.
Another challenge was just learning as much as I could. For example, Emma is in almost every frame of the film. There were a few weeks where she filmed her scenes with the actors playing her parents, so I made it my mission to be on that cast every minute I could. I never went to film school. I dropped out of business school to start acting. Filming this movie was my school, so I tried to absorb as much as I could.
What was your favorite scene to film for the movie?
Pasarow: Good question. I would say the most exciting scene to film was the ballroom scene. We were on the beach, and it was a beautiful day. We filmed it on the last day when a lot of actors playing our friends were filming. We were all close, so it was this real-time celebration of this shared experience that we all experienced together. Since they were filming that sequence with two portable cameras, we were able to wander and play and have fun with each other. And they just caught it with a camera and it just connected everything.
Camels: I think maybe my favorite scene was in the cake shop. We started in rehearsals and auditions with the cake shop scene, but we didn’t film it until the end of production, so we had a bit of a full circle moment with that scene and it was very sentimental to me and Emma.
What do you want viewers to take away after watching the movie?
Pasarow: I want viewers to take away that we are all more than one thing. And we should give ourselves permission to explore, fail, and try things we don’t like. And I also think that vulnerability is a strength. When we meet Auden, she is very strong and independent, but part of her strength comes from her holding things. She doesn’t want to be a burden. She just holds everything very tightly to her chest. And it’s by meeting all the women and Eli that she learns that vulnerability is incredibly important, and you get deeper relationships as a result.
Camels: Well, I think the characters in this movie are all so versatile, which is not common in some YA movies. The complexities that Eli and Auden deal with are not typical tropes that you can see in such a film. There are some heavier topics that are not usually explored in this genre. Hopefully, people can see themselves in these characters because everyone knows what it’s like to feel broken, misunderstood, or lose a piece of yourself. If people can’t relate to it, Together for the Ride also works like a really nice summer movie.
Together for the Ride is currently streaming on Netflix.