Director Aneesh Chaganty‘s first two films have a common theme: parenting gone wrong. Where ‘Searching‘ followed a father in search of his missing daughter, visionary shown through the use of social media and screens that can be found all over the house, his newest film focuses on a mother who would do anything for her daughter. ‘Run‘ is a tense domestic thriller that shows there’s no escaping a mother’s love.
There’s something unnatural, even sinister about the relationship between Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen) and her mom, Diane (Sarah Paulson – ‘Ratched‘). Diane has raised her daughter in total isolation, controlling every move she’s made since birth, and there are secrets that Chloe’s only beginning to grasp.
The title card of the film lists a series of conditions Chloe suffers from: arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, asthma, diabetes and paralyses. That last one is very important, as it refers to the title itself. Chloe is on the brink of a big change in her life, which will set her free from her mother’s care: going to college. Nervously waiting for a letter of acceptance, we get to spend a seemingly happy day in the life of Chloe and her mother Diane. Every move is scheduled and controlled by mommy dearest, but when a change in medication makes Chloe suspicious of her mother’s actions, nothing will stop her at finding the answers that’ll change her life forever.
At its creepiest, ‘Run‘ plays like an out of control roller coaster, not knowing how many twists and turns you’re in for, but you know they’re coming. Besides directing, Chaganty once again teams up with fellow ‘Searching’ writer and producer Sev Ohanian, to bring us a screwed up mental tour-de-force. They succeed at giving each act a different feel. The first act feels innocent before the mystery of prescription pills sets in, to then flow into one of the most intense second acts I’ve seen in a thriller in quite some time. Personally, I felt that the film absolutely peaked in this act, showcasing the physical and emotional strength of Kiera Allen’s performance that had me gasping for air (as someone suffering from asthma himself – do not try this at home).
The star most people will tune in for is of course, Mrs. Paulson. That’s where the somewhat toned down final act gives her the space to go full batshit mad woman. Paulson, infamously known for being an acting chameleon, shows a two-faced mother who’s holding on to all she’s built for the last 18 years. Her performance is absolutely terrifying, as she embodies Diane’s erratic behaviour, while turning her calm voice into something that’ll make you run for your life.
Chaganty and Ohanian’s screenplay is clever, as Chloe isn’t your run-of-the-mill victim, but instead they’ve created a young woman that’s been able to train her brain all these years while her body has suffered through different illnesses. As some sort of MacGyver brainiac, she goes above and beyond to escape the smothering love of her mother. The directing is solid, and although the pacing is a bit off, Allen and Paulson’s mother/daughter chemistry is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Successful twisted character drama aside, the suspense is kept at a high level, with Torin Borrowdale‘s score and Hillary Spera‘s impressively skilled camera work to solidify the film’s identity.
A solid sophomore film from Chaganty, that makes you excited for whatever he comes up with next. Their strong genre work doesn’t rely on gore or extreme violence to raise your heartbeat, making ‘Run‘ an intoxicating character-driven must-see.
Hulu Review – ‘Run’
Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 14, 2020. Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 min.
PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of a Lionsgate production. Producers: Sev Ohanian (p.g.a.), Natalia Qasabian (p.g.a.).
CREW: Director: Aneesh Chaganty. Screenplay: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian. Cinematography: Hillary Spera. Score: Torin Borrowdale.
WITH: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy.