RUN (2020) is a dark thriller in which a home-schooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her. Written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty who made his directorial debut in 2018 with the film SEARCHING. Previously scheduled for release in May 2020 by Lionsgate, HULU picked up digital distribution rights for a November debut.
Casting Sarah Paulson is always a wise choice, the sheer level of emotion that she brings to a role is incredibly satisfying to watch, the precision with which she can use facial expressions to change emotions in a split second is a very unique talent. It’s one that’s certainly applied liberally with this film, it classically opens with her very caring, supportive demeanor, priming you for the fall as the reality is revealed. Her performance is expectedly brilliant, she brings her typical intense energy, being able to convey the darkness that lies behind her character with just a simple look. The way that her character keeps her composure and reacts so swiftly under pressure makes it masterfully frustrating, bringing that classic horror atmosphere of wanting to scream at your screen. Kiera Allen alongside her does an impressive job as Chloe, it’s her first feature role and you wouldn’t know it, she brings a real sincerity and an intelligence to her character, as well as delivering in spades the emotion that this role asks of her.
The film doesn’t really stray too far so the focus is very strongly on these two and the quality of their performances does elevate it from the issues that it has with the writing. The main problem that stands out is that it jumps right in without any real build up to Chloe’s growing suspicion that there’s something wrong. It’s quite hard to believe that being 17-years old, she would have never questioned anything like this before, as if something in her subconscious just clicked one day, and there simply isn’t a big enough catalyst to make that believable which dampens things. There’s also issues with the way it progresses, you can see the opportunities it had to move in a sharper fashion but they’re not taken. There are a number of moments where it lingers slightly too long and feels somewhat clumsy, which is a shame because it also hints at a darkly comedy edge but never sees it through. Although points do go in its favour for the fact that it raises the stakes a great deal higher than you might expect of it.
The editing in particular is something that brings that more playful, comedic or self-aware quality, there’s some great uses of it to accentuate its point without having to be overt and while that tries to add a sharper edge, it’s held back by the writing. Mixed with the acting, it does still manage to build a solid amount of suspense and tension despite falling short at various points. The direction feels average, it’s good but it’s not showing us anything we haven’t seen before; it feels like it’s following the general thriller playbook and played it too safe. It comes across like MA (2019), without the gratuitous violence, when it needed to aim more for the atmosphere of SHARP OBJECTS (2018), if it wasn’t going to fully embrace the darkly comedic or sadistic side to its story. Playing it too safe is something that particularly affects the way the ending is handled, rather than wrapping things up with a sharp, biting moment that satisfies all the built up tension, it disappointingly slowly hands everything out on a platter, pandering to its audience.
RUN is yet another example of how unbelievable of an actress Sarah Paulson is and how satisfying it is to watch her in dark, sinister roles. Keira Allen does an impressive job with her feature debut, she’s sympathetic, intelligent and creative and as things heat up, a perfect opposing force to Paulson to create an entertaining and gripping battle of wills. There’s plenty of suspense and tension to keep you glued to the screen but unfortunately it feels as though this story doesn’t reach its full potential and the direction is too familiar, it would have pushed the film much further to see it take more risks. That said, it’s entertaining and definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a Paulson fan.