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Review: Run – “Well-paced tension”

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Image: Hulu

A mother’s love is meant to be binding and unbreakable.  From the moment a child is born, there is typically an instinctual bond.  This is demonstrated not just in humans, but also in nature as mothers protect their offspring from outside threats.  But what if this protective nature goes too far? What if instead a mother’s love becomes need, becomes possessive, becomes obsessive? Director Aneesh Chaganty pushes those parental boundaries in his second feature film, Run.

Asthma, diabetes, severe rashes, paralysis – these are just some of the conditions that affect seventeen-year-old Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen).  Her days are marked by the pills she takes, organized and labelled by her mother Diane (Sarah Paulson) who has been her sole caretaker since she was born.  The pair live outside a small town, isolated within the walls of their home, and have a seemingly idyllic, easy-going relationship.  Relegated to her wheelchair, Chloe doesn’t really leave their house much, or at least she is not offered many opportunities.  She is homeschooled by her mother, who also controls her internet access and everything she eats.  The most exciting part of each day for Chloe, an intelligent and resourceful young woman, is the delivery of the mail where she eagerly awaits an acceptance letter for university.

However, Chloe’s blind faith in her mother’s love and care is about to come into question when she finds that one of the many medications she is taking isn’t labelled for her.  She begins to become suspicious there is something more nefarious going on, but her lack of connection to the outside world makes it difficult to investigate.  Chloe is desperate to find out the truth.  But Diane has other plans.  She has seen this coming, and also clearly recognizes that Chloe’s desire to leave home is inevitable.  Diane will be alone, an empty nester.  She’s not about to let Chloe go without a fight, even if it has disastrous consequences.

Director Aneesh Chaganty co-wrote this film alongside Sev Ohanian who was also his writing partner for his 2018 film Searching.  While Searching was timely and original using various digital interfaces to tell its story, it also created a particularly nuanced relationship between father and daughter that significantly upped the stakes.  Run strays away from that, with little background information on what has occurred over Diane and Chloe’s relationship over the last 17 years.

Perhaps that wouldn’t matter as much if Run also didn’t ask you to suspend belief over some of its other details.  Such as, the very fake medication that Diane is giving to Chloe.  While it is understandable that one might not want to name a true medication, a drug that is even therapeutically possible would be a start.  In my other life, I am a veterinarian and I can’t wait for people to ask me for the miracle muscle relaxant that helps with their dog’s leg pain due to sunburn and bug bites?  A quick consult with a pharmacist or any medical professional might have circumvented this, though I understand this is likely to bother only a niche group of people.  However, it’s not the only scene that lacks realism, as Chloe’s MacGyver-esque antics during an escape sequence could demonstrate.

That said, Run is not the only thriller to have fallen into these unrealistic traps.  And credit where credit is due, many of those sequences are suspenseful despite their details, demonstrating that, just as in Searching, Chaganty has the skill to create tension where it might otherwise prove difficult.  He is aided in part by the orchestral score from Torin Borrowdale, that helps to turn the screw at just the right moments.

But it is Paulson and Allen that do much of the heavy lifting here.  With several seasons of American Horror Story under her belt as well as the recent portrayal of a demented nurse in the Netflix series Ratched, Paulson is certainly making herself a go-to actor for disturbed characters.  She does her best to make Diane whole and succeeds in creating the menacing mother.  Allen, for her part largely keeps up with Paulson for her feature debut, making her one to watch, especially if cast in a film that gives her character a little more depth.

As you might imagine, Run becomes a bit of a zany go.  That said, if you don’t think about it too hard, the filmmaking team’s penchant for suspense can make it a bit of fun.  It never tries to reinvent the wheel, but it does roll along nicely with well-paced tension.  Run was meant to originally open on Mother’s Day, a tongue-in-cheek nod perhaps to how seriously this film really takes itself (taking mom to a movie about a psychologically twisted mother on her special day is certainly a choice).  Run is far from perfect but not without thriller merit, surely solidifying Chaganty’s place within the genre.

Run premiers on Hulu this Friday, November 20th.

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