There’s something ironic about a film about trying to break out of your own house, particularly watched in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and particularly coming from home-imprisonment specialists Netflix. It’s hard to quantify the alienating effect that fifteen months of ‘stay at home’ orders will have on our collective psyche, but this cautionary tale of a mother’s love will do for now. It’s not going to be easy to return to the social habits that took a century to develop in their present form; couch potatoes and joggy-bottom sporters can at least console themselves that the protagonist of Run has it much worse than any of us.
Actress Kiera Allen plays Chloe Sherman, a teenager home-schooled by caring, attentive mother Diane (Sarah Paulson); we’re in a backwater town, Pasco, Washington. Chloe has all kinds of medical ailments that keep her in a wheelchair, but hopes to get to University some day, if she gets accepted. But waiting for that envelope seems to be taking longer than expected, and Chloe begins to wonder about her mother’s intentions; the labels on her medication suggest that her drugs are being tampered with, but why? Chloe begins to think that her mom might be gas-lighting her, and while her mother’s attention is elsewhere, begins a clandestine investigation of her situation….
A Lionsgate cinema film, distributed by Hulu in the US and Netflix internationally, Aneesh Chaganty’s film has many of the same issues as his previous effort Searching, namely a plot that falls apart in two seconds if you think about it at all. Run sets up a Rear Window/Misery story of captivity and attempted break-out, but squanders almost all of the screen-time on admittedly engrossing physical detail. Diane is a fearsome character, in terms of her potential abuse of her daughter, but once she starts disposing of inquisitive mail-men (and their trucks) Run somewhat jumps the shark, nukes the fridge and generally takes leave of its senses. Pasco is shown as a one-horse, one-street town and yet for dramatic purposes has a cinema with improbably-packed daytime screenings, with forthcoming attractions including a screening of ‘Fake News’. It’s worth asking why the inhabitants of Pasco aren’t at home watching Netflix like everyone else, but I guess Chloe needs a crowd to slip away into. A final table-turning flourish adds an air of EC Comics Gothic melodrama, but such hambone elements might have worked better earthed as part of the overall plot-line rather than a mad punchline.
All that said, Run does a better job than Searching of getting a high-concept over the line, thanks to a reliable if increasingly typecast Paulson as the Mommie Dearest, and from Allen, who has MS in real life, and manages to rise to the tough physical demands of a tricky role. That Run works at all is due to Allen’s empathetic presence; Netflix are happy to play up the use of a disabled performer in a modern parallel to 1948’s John Sturges film The Sign of the Ram, and the comparison isn’t unwelcome given the quality of the acting here. With allusions to Hitchcock, and Stephen King, Run is a palatable enough time-passer, but Chaganty might want to seek out a script-doctor before churning out any more hokey thrillers like this.