Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Run 2020
"Run has all the elements of a strong thriller but it's the performances that drive it, along with the chemistry between the two leads."

Saying goodbye to children when they leave home is never easy. For Diane (Sarah Paulson) it may be harder still, because she's homeschooled Chloe (Kiera Allen) and spent every day of the past 18 years with her. Members of her premature birth support group assume that Chloe's severe disability and complex illness must also factor into it, but she dismisses that. Nobody is as tough and independent as her daughter, she says.

She has no idea.

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There's a blind spot that most people have when it comes to mothers and children. These days, most of us are alert to the fact that abuse can happen in all sorts of close relationships, yet our cultural belief in maternal love is so strong that it's often hard to admit there could be a problem with that bond - hard to recognise it even when it's right in front of us. Chloe is indeed a strong-minded, bright, capable teenager, yet right from the start of this film there's something off about the way she acts around hr mother. A hesitation, a slight cringe of the sort easily developed in anticipation of violence. It colours the film long before we begin to share the girl's apprehension that for all the big talk, her mother doesn't intend to let her go.

2020 is an interesting year for disability in horror films: a year when filmmakers have finally started exploring, in some number, both the narrative potential of physical impairments and the psychological effects of living with them. Unlike the traumatised heroine of Ropes, which opens in the same week, Chloe has been disabled all her life. She gets on with things, but she's also learned a lot of practical skills that many a horror protagonist would benefit from, from her ability to pick up on small details to her awesome skill with the few muscles over which she has some control. She's afraid of her mother - increasingly so, as her suspicions coalesce around a series of disturbing incidents - but driven by that fear and her desire for freedom, she's willing to take on physical challenges which would terrify most people.

Run has all the elements of a strong thriller but it's the performances that drive it, along with the chemistry between the two leads. For the story to work - and for us to accept Chloe as the confident person she appears to be - we have to be able to believe in the love that has bound these two together, despite its now distorted form. We also need to understand the more than physical nature of the threat Chloe faces - the control her mother has over the way she thinks and the disorientation she experience as she finds herself forced to question familiar things.

When the story shifts into more familiar horror territory and starts pulling out all the dramatic stops, there's a danger that it will lose its way. Fortunately, director Aneesh Chaganty (the man behind 2018 standout [film id=32565]Searching[/film[ - keeps it sharp and maintains the tension until it's redeemed by an ending which restores its former nuance. Though some of its subject matter may be familiar, the film is well handled throughout - a satisfying slice of genre action with some serious subtext.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2020
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A homeschooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her.
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Director: Aneesh Chaganty

Writer: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian

Starring: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Onalee Ames

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


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