Run opens with a flashback scene, something this film makes use of frequently. We see an upset Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) after giving birth to a premature baby. Then we are propelled into the present day, seeing Diane and her 17-year-old daughter, Chloe (Kiera Allen). From the offset, a fast and jarring pace is set. The film is directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who made his directorial debut with thriller Searching in 2018.
The first act of this film could be construed as a light-hearted mother-daughter drama. It presents the everyday struggles of a teenager with a disability as she tries to navigate life and move into adulthood. This is something Run does well. While jarring, the tone changes are successful in building tension. It’s a classic ‘everything is not as it seems’ start, presenting us with a familiar story that takes a sudden turn. A pharmacy receipt in her mother’s shopping bag peaks Chloe’s suspicions, and unravels a lifetime of lies.
The most compelling part of Run is the magnetism of Chloe’s character. Every decision she makes is clever, despite the traumatic situation she finds herself in. Everything she knows has been ripped away and yet, she fights on. I rooted for Chloe from beginning to end. It’s by no means a new story, though it is a refreshing take. It’s quite self-aware in its tropes, but not as entirely predictable as one might expect. It only takes around half an hour for the action to begin and then you’re hooked.
Run was reminiscent of other similar tales, which is unavoidable. The overbearing, abusive mother is a well used trope. The first that came to my mind while watching was one of the storylines from It, Stephen King’s novel and the 2017/2019 film adaptations. One of the main characters, Eddie Kaspbrak, suffers at the hands of his mother, who convinces him he is unwell. A frequent image in those films is Eddie using his inhaler, which of course, he does not need. This is paralleled in Run, as the two separate stories portray a parent/child relationship based on lies and suffering. What I didn’t expect was the explicit nod to King’s It.
After Chloe finds the strange prescription and grows suspicious of her mother’s care, she uses the house phone to call a pharmacy for advice. As she tries to get connected, the automated voice on the phone asks her if she’s in ‘Derry, Maine’. This is a King-created fictional town, and the setting for many of his works including It. As an avid horror fan, this was an exciting Easter egg.
As a thriller, Run definitely succeeds. It doesn’t let you rest. It is often contained to the house, and has the same claustrophobic atmosphere as films such as Misery (1990) or Split (2016), particularly as Chloe tries to escape. The film feels like a love letter to Misery, with the connecting themes and a character’s struggle to break out from captivity. Another blink and you’ll miss it reference- the pharmacist Chloe goes to see is named Kathy Bates, surely a call-back to Misery, starring Bates.
While at times the twist and turns become silly, it is saved by the performances of Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen. Their chemistry on-screen elevates the experience. We see Paulson do what she has done best in American Horror Story, and most recently Ratched. Newcomer Allen is incredible and magnetic, often acting alone for extended periods of time. It is also important to note that Allen is a wheelchair user herself, marking Run as the first thriller to cast a wheelchair user since 1948. Allen commented that she was relieved that the script “doesn’t just have a disabled character shoved into a trope, something that reduces the complexity of the person or has them there to inform someone else’s journey.”
Run is a wild ride and a great night-time flick. If you’re disappointed by the story, the performances of the lead characters will be enough to keep you watching. It deals well with a tense moral dilemma and the fine line between love and suffering. It’s a must-watch for any thriller fan, even if all you do is debate over what the ending meant. Aneesh Shaganty does a commendable job, and he’s definitely one to look out for in the future.
Stream Run on Netflix now.
Words by Amy K Brown
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