Running Stumbled

Running Stumbled


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

This is an exciting time to be involved in film. Everybody's talking about how the switch to digital is changing the face of the industry, enabling small scale productions with big ambitions to achieve things they never could have managed before, and gradually this carries through to cinemas in the form of more diverse and inventive things to see.

Running Stumbled is one of the leaders of this revolution, presenting an intimate yet devastatingly intense family portrait which Hollywood would never have sanctioned - at least not as documentary. We're all used to melodrama in fiction, but Maringouin's incisive film shows us the real lives of the "people we like to forget we resemble".

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Maringouin's estranged father, Johny, is a talented artist who hasn't worked for years. All around the walls of his shabby, decaying home hang his stunning paintings, sharp elegant lines contrasting with the piles of cardboard boxes in the corners and the noodles on the carpet. Rough, low-lit visuals bring this house to life, as much a character as he is. We also meet his partner of nine years, Marie, whom, he complains, "never stops talking", so naturally she gets the lion's share of screen time. Marie has been through some tough experiences with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but the toughness she's developed in response is underscored by an obsession with death. "She's always talking about how she's going to die but she never does." Johny laments. This film, fundamentally, is the story of their passionately co-dependent, stubbornly dysfunctional relationship.

In portraying such a grim scenario, Running Stumbled cannot help but be a grim movie in places, and it seems much longer than its 85 minutes. It's the sort of film which might usefully be shown to wayward teenagers who don't understand how pills and slacking and hiding from the world can screw you up, though the relationship itself is clearly the central factor in these disintegrated lives.

"Do you like Xanax? Have some Xanax," Marie offers generously before proceeding to another soliloquy about her life. She doesn't seem exploited because she's clearly loving every minute of it, and therein lies the genius of Maringouin's work.

These are the sort of people we usually look at from a distance, appearing briefly to be manipulated, laughed at and dismissed on TV talk shows. Here they get to speak on their own terms, asserting themselves as real people who, no matter how broken, are people we can care about. Their wry humour and the absurdity of their situation give their story an unexpected warmth; their strong characters are intriguing even whilst their circumstances are repulsive. The film gets so close to them that many viewers will feel uncomfortable, but in doing so it provides real insight.

Running Stumbled is a difficult film to watch and it may not always be a pleasing one, but it is certainly a film with a purpose.

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2007
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An intensely personal story about the filmmaker's artist father and his partner living in their decaying house in New Orleans.

Director: John Maringouin

Starring: Virgie Marie Pennoui, Johny Roe Jr., Stanley Laviolette, John Maringouin

Year: 2006

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


London 2006

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