Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
This review contains mild spoilers.
Mother knows best – that’s Diane’s (Paulson) attitude. She’s an over-protective single parent helicoptering her daughter Chloe (Allen), who was born with a text screens worth of different medical conditions. But now the home-schooled soon, to be high school graduate, is soon to leave the nest – and do all the things her mother couldn’t because she was busy raising her. However, she isn’t hearing back from any of the colleges she’s applied for. And now her mum’s got her on these strange, green pills. If Chaganty’s first outing Searching was about a dad who’d stop at nothing to save his daughter, Run is a nice subversion being about a mother who’ll stop at nothing to smother her’s. It’s the sort of delightfully dark premise that I like to see in a modern thriller: Ma meets Misery.
For the first two acts, Run shows so much potential too. Both actors are excellent, with Paulson’s high drama being countered well by Allen’s more naturalistic performance (it’s amazing that this is her feature debut). The actors have great chemistry, and though the movie’s light on set-pieces (there are two key ones) their battle of wits is often a joy to watch. There are moments of tension, where I was gripped – a scene in the chemist being my favourite. And to Chaganty’s credit as a storyteller, there are numerous little clues peppered throughout. Diane’s backing story is not really explored, though the performance is such that we never doubt she does the things she does out of a twisted form of love. In that respect, though she may be continuously gaslighting her daughter she isn’t played as a baddy. As for Chloe, I liked that her disability never defines her character. It’s not just an obstacle to be overcome, and she isn’t portrayed as a victim. Frankly, it’s the sort of positive representation I’d like to see more of.
Then, about two-thirds of the way through, things take a turn for the worse with a twist that undermines both the novelty and emotional complexity of its premise. The film becomes considerably less intense as a direct consequence, with lower stakes and less personal conflict. It’s a twist made all the more frustrating by how darn obvious it is too, being the main thing I didn’t want to happen during it. Moreover, the reveal also hinges upon a character we’ve been led to believe is clever doing something really fucking daft because the plot demands they do it to move forward. I don’t want to say too much, but if you’re putting someone in a room you ought to make sure it doesn’t contain all the documents that you’d rather they didn’t see. This sort of clumsy storytelling undoes two acts of solid tension-building, resulting in a blip the third act never recovers from. Perhaps they could have done something interesting with it still, but as accomplished as both actors are their parts don’t have enough psychological depth to rise above being avatars for the premise that’s been scrapped. With the weak mechanics laid bare, and then a finale that loses its intensity following the intervention of a third party, it fizzles out. A neat coda returns the film to its nasty roots, but ultimately Run is a missed opportunity.
Run is available now on Netflix.