You know when you have a friend who is smart, pretty, and generally good at everything, but has a significant other who constantly brings them down? And how you can’t imagine that someone with so much talent and potential could date such a lazy slob with no prospects and only the sheer power of luck to push them through life? It’s hard to scream “Sweetie, you need to dump them” if they seem really happy and content with their relationship, but you just know in your heart of hearts that they could do so much better. This is my relationship to Sarah Paulson being one of the finest actresses of her generation, and her choosing to spend her career with Ryan Murphy.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s still good in everything she’s in, but at what cost? At what cost do we have to watch Sarah Paulson continue to be subjected to Murphy’s half-baked, underdeveloped retreads of things he calls television? Sure, I’m being harsh, but it’s films like Run that only appear once in a blue moon where I really get to see everything we’ve been missing, and oh boy, it’s a lot.
Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) is a single mother living with her 17-year-old daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen). Complications suffered during Chloe’s birth have left Chloe with a myriad of different health issues including severe asthma and paralysis from the waist down. Chloe has been homeschooled all her life and is anticipating attending college the following fall. As the time for her acceptance letters to come in the mail approaches, Chloe soon begins to notice strange behavior in her mother, prompting her to wonder if she really has her best interest at heart.
Helmed by Searching director Aneesh Chaganty, Run is yet another unbearably tense thriller that firmly grounds itself in a realistic, emotional, and terrifying fashion. Chaganty establishes himself as a filmmaker versed in Hitchockian tension in a way that most filmmakers graze over these days. Straddling the line between slow-burn thriller and psychological horror, the pace of Run is nailed perfectly by Chaganty to elevate it into a league of its own amongst all other thrillers this year.
Much of this elevation comes not only from Paulson’s tragically intense performance as the maligned Diane, but from Allen’s bravura performance as Chloe. As a disabled actress, Allen proves that there is no task too large to ask of a disabled actor if the role of a person with disabilities is written respectfully and accurately, as Chaganty has done here (with the help of Allen on set). Every scene is tailor-made to fit to Allen’s strength as an actress, and she delivers it with such a cool and clever ease that she honestly steals the light from Paulson, which is no small task, especially given that Paulson’s performance is also incredibly magnetic and gratifying, in a much darker, more sinister way. The chemistry between Paulson and Allen is unmatched, and they only work to make each other better throughout.
Chaganty, along with the expertise of cinematographer Hillary Spera and production designer Jean-Andre Carriere, crafts an initially uninteresting world surrounding Chloe and Diane within a typical upper middle-class suburban home and morphs this picturesque world into a much tighter, more macabre maze for Chloe to escape as the film goes on. Things aren’t changed outright, but the tasks Chloe must complete out of the gaze of her overbearing mother begin to feel more and more overwhelming as she traverses a house that she soon finds has been systematically rigged against her freedom for 17 years. It’s all so fascinating how they meld the tone together with this tight space that almost plays out with the constricted staging of a stage play.
Part Hitchcock, part The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, part Misery, part Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and yet all its own, Run only seeks to establish Chaganty even further as a burgeoning master of suspense, finding what makes audiences tick in their own lives while rarely having to resort to grandiose antics to keep their attention (that doesn’t mean Run doesn’t get a little batshit in its third act). There is an organic thrill to the entire affair that only comes around once in a blue moon. It’s a shame this year has robbed us of the chance to experience this in a crowded, excited theater, but its new home on Hulu doesn’t take away from how masterfully crafted Run is as a whole.
Available for streaming on Hulu beginning November 20th, 2020.
Film Score: 4.5 out of 5.