A thrilling if barebones sophomore outing from Aneesh Chaganty
Seeing the sophomore outing of directors that surprised with their first film, is perhaps even more important as an indicator to future spoils. Aneesh Chaganty blew viewers away with his incredibly original and equally thrilling Searching (2018), which was told entirely on computer screens. His second directorial outing, Run (2020) has just hit Hulu.
Run follows Chloe Sherman (Kiera Allen) a seventeen-year-old girl plagued with a variety of illnesses and disabilities the likes of arrythmia, diabetes, and partial paralysis. Her mom (Sarah Paulson) has homeschooled her and is incredibly protective of her. However, Chloe begins to suspect about some of the medications that her mother gives her; that they might not be making her better… but actually worse.
Run continues Chaganty’s particular curiosity with parental relationships. This was certainly the case in Searching, but in Run Chaganty switches from a parent point-of-view, to that of the child. We are fully inhabiting Chloe’s perspective and Chaganty proves to be as equally adept at telling his narrative this way. Run is told in a more conventional sense, we don’t follow the plot on computer screens, and yet there is a deep sense of focus on particular objects or glances, so that the film feels extremely claustrophobic. I was pleased to see Chaganty stray from the elongation of his film in the first stages of the narrative, choosing instead the more logical choices his protagonist might take if at the sake of a shorter film.
Run is led by a great Sarah Paulson, but the true star is newcomer Kiera Allen. Allen is a disabled person herself, also needing a wheelchair, but it’s in the angst of her plight to find the truth about herself and her mother that she shines as a performer. Run relies heavily on viewers to buy into the protagonist’s intelligence and intuition, and with some hefty editing and Allen’s acting this is made easy to follow. Allen is in nearly every scene, a majority of which is without dialogue, yet she brought about a natural charisma and likeability, making words almost obstructive to her performance.
We’ve already seen a similarly themed project about mothers incapacitating their children out of overprotection (it is in fact a clinical disorder named munchausen by proxy), with Hulu’s mini-series The Act (2019). In that series, the skepticism was allowed to be brewed slowly, so that the suspicion from the daughter feels more organic and the characters are further developed. Run seems to want to skip over a build-up and dive straight into the tension. This causes the motivations and suspicions of Chloe to be a little abrupt. Changanty excels at the tension-filled scenes, making Run one of the best thrillers of the year. However, as the narrative forces a conclusion, Chaganty seems to be at a loss again. We get a very sloppy and rushed backstory attempting to explain our characters and their histories, and the finale, while exciting, is rounded out with a questionable twist. The regretful aspect of these two things is that they weren’t necessary. Clearly Chaganty’s strength is in creating nerve-wracking situations, and viewers would happily see him lean into that. Performers, if talented enough (and in Run they are) are capable of providing a vague backstory to their characters without needing to spell it out. And one doesn’t need an M. Night Shyamalan twist to have satisfying conclusions, in truth: the simpler, the better.
Overall, Run is an extremely enjoyable thriller, I don’t hesitate to claim the best of the year. The film falters slightly in its set-up and conclusion, but thankfully shines in its core aspects. Changanty shows us that he certainly is a promising talent with this sophomore effort. Now it’s up to us to follow Allen, which after seeing her shine and carry this film, will be exciting to see her sophomore work.