Ride with Larry is an extraordinary moving story that would be impossible to walk away from it without some sort of emotional response.
Ride with Larry
Larry Smith was forced to retire early after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after serving 26 years as a police officer. He and his family moved to South Dakota so that his wife could teach at a state university in the small city of Vermillion. A lot of people spend their rest of their life in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in order to refrain from constantly falling down. This is not how Larry wants to live life. Amazingly, he defies all odds by continuing to work five days a week at a successful local bakery he started called Mister Smiths. But he does not stop there.
After spending 20 years battling Parkinson’s, Larry seeks to bike 300 miles over the course of five days across the state of South Dakota. The distance alone makes this a worthy challenge. But when you add the fact that this man has a hard time controlling his body movements with the brutal wind and rain of South Dakota weather, it not only makes the ride truly impressive but also very dangerous. If there is something you cannot take from Larry, it is the freedom and control of movement he feels when cycling, a rare sensation that he gets to experience.
A great deal of the documentary is filming Larry ride on his bike through the state of South Dakota. Using a combination of mounted Go-Pros on his bike and holding a camera out of a moving vehicle, the audience gets to experience the journey alongside Larry. Following him on the road allows the film to capture the countryside of the state as well as the rapidly changing weather conditions he must deal with.
The reason why this documentary hits all the emotional notes is that Larry Smith is a genuine human being with an unbelievable personality and sense of humor. This is a man who is not doing this ride for fame. In a heartwarming scene he recognizes the fact that most people are cheering for him because of his circumstance, which you can tell has a heavy impact on him.
Always along his side with smiles and encouragement is his wife Betty. She explains the challenges of living with someone who suffers from Parkinson’s. Things like keeping his daily regimen of prescribed medicine organized and being there to help him up after he falls uncontrollably. But she shares the same positive outlook on life as Larry does. The fact that she has never considered giving up makes the story equally romantic as it is motivating.
If there was anything to criticize about the Ride with Larry, it would probably be the advocation of medical marijuana part that practically blindsides the audience three-fourths into the film out of nowhere. The problem is not the fact the filmmakers did not make a great case for using the drug to treat those suffering from Parkinson’s, because they do. The issue is that this piece comes in so late and only makes a brief appearance in the documentary, making it feel like it was more of an afterthought.
As you would expect due to the subject matter, Ride with Larry is an extraordinary moving story that would be impossible to walk away from it without some sort of emotional response. It’s an uplifting tale of the human spirit. When obstacles are in Larry’s way he finds a way around them and when he falls down he gets right back up. Larry is not only an inspiration to those who suffer from the same disease, but is an inspiration to us all.