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You might assume that Aneesh Chaganty’s latest thriller was made to coincide with the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Appropriately claustrophobic, Run depicts a disabled teenager being imprisoned and lied to by her mother, who we learn just might be slipping her the wrong medicines in order to keep her sick.
Diane (Sarah Paulson) is a fully-functioning member of society who even has the audience thinking that maybe she’s completely normal. Spoiler alert: she’s not. Her daughter, Chloe (Kiera Allen), has been homeschooled her entire life and is now awaiting an acceptance letter from her dream college, University of Washington. Among other issues, Chloe has a muscular disease that affects her ability to walk. She’s confined to a wheelchair and uses an elevator contraption to go up and down the stairs in their two-story house. Despite these handicaps, she’s extremely intelligent and confident and should have no problem getting into college…you would think.
Chloe and Diane have a wonderful relationship – until one day Chloe discovers that it’s her mother’s name on the prescription bottle for the pills being given to her night, not her own. This sends Chloe down a frustrating road where she must try to overcome her limited setting and find some answers. As Diane figures out that her daughter might know more than she’s letting on, she throws in some countermoves.
Being a parent isn’t easy, but it’s definitely not as difficult as Diane makes it out to be. While caring for an ill child is a contrition I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, putting yourself in that situation on purpose just seems counterintuitive. It’s hard enough being a single parent, but forcing medical conditions on your child in order to harvest dependence just seems harmful to yourself as well.
Run doesn’t deep dive into the psychological elements of Diane’s issues, mostly because they go without saying. She’s dependent on her daughter staying at home, sure, but her reasonings for doing so is where the movie becomes engrossing. The film doesn’t fully rely on its fun twists to carry us along, but instead implements them late in the story to compliment the suspense that comes beforehand, leveling itself up to almost Hitchcockian proportions. Even before the set of plot twists get introduced we can enjoy Chloe’s physical, psychological, and emotional journey without ever needing more to the story.
In true suspense-thriller fashion, the audience is made to be afraid of Diane, just as Chloe, our audience surrogate, is. However, there’s no real reason why we, or even Chloe, should be. Our protagonist is brave, independent, and seems to have a fun and loving relationship with her mother, so why would these startling new events suddenly make her terrified of her mother’s mere presence if she never was before? The two appear to have the type of dynamic where Chloe would be comfortable confronting her mother if she saw the wrong name on the pills, not nervously asking questions or sneaking around to find out the truth.
The best scene in the movie is when Chloe gets locked in her bedroom and is forced to climb out her second story window and, with legs that don’t function, circumnavigate her house from the upstairs roof, crawl back into the house through an open window in a different room, and proceed to make her way back to her own bedroom to unlock it. This movie speaks on the resilience of the human spirit and the determination to be free no matter what the cost, but this unbelievable sequence in particular epitomizes that notion to the fullest.
Paulson has a naturally creepy look when she wants to (no doubt a factor why she was chosen to play the iconic Nurse Ratched in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series) and is more than capable of giving an outstanding performance. Despite her believable conviction, however, writer/director Chaganty (with Sev Ohanian) doesn’t always let her speak authentically, even within her bizarre predicament.
On the other hand, Allen, in her film debut, is a magnificent talent who just understands human emotion in a way that can’t be taught. Chaganty wanted to cast an actual disabled person for the part, but the up-and-coming actress would have surely outdone anyone for the role – able-bodied or not.
Torin Borrowdale’s musical score is relentlessly aggressive, but effective just the same. Although, sometimes the film relies so heavily on the music that in the rare occasion when it doesn’t pair well it’s noticeable.
Ultimately, Chaganty’s main objective is to show how the desire for freedom is stronger and more powerful than the desire to imprison. Utilizing the psychological notes from The Shining and the urgent suspense and plot building from Vertigo, Run is a satisfying thriller that never forgets its responsibility to entertain, first and foremost, underneath all of the technical camerawork and beautiful coloring and lighting. While not flawless, Run is one of the most consistently entertaining films of the year.