Run showcases the whiplash intensity and cold calculation of Sarah Paulson at her peak, with intense moments that will leave you breathless.
Director Aneesh Chaganty delivers sleek thrills in Run, a Hitchcock-inspired thriller that operates on a razor’s edge. Swiftly ushered in by a powerful performance from American Horror Story alum Sarah Paulson, Run promises the audience will stay securely at the edge of their seats for the 90 minute descent into sheer madness. Run marks the second outing by Chaganty, whose critically acclaimed directorial debut film, Searching, released in 2018. With a script by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, Run takes the backbone of an Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller and flips the script to give more power to the movie’s female protagonist. As Chloe, Kiera Allen is a formidable counter for Paulson’s unhinged mixture of maternal ferocity and wild-eyed obsession. Run showcases the whiplash intensity and cold calculation of Sarah Paulson at her peak, with intense moments that will leave you breathless.
In Run, homeschooled high school student Chloe (Allen) lives a secluded life under the ever-watchful eye of her mother, Diane (Paulson), who ensures her every need is met — and then some. Ambitious and tenacious, Chloe is impatiently awaiting an admissions letter from her university of choice, The University of Washington, as she sees it not only as a chance to break out of her daily routine – which is depicted as monotonous – but out from under her mother’s thumb. However, when faced with the prospect of losing her baby girl, Diane decides that Chloe’s only future is one with her, and will stop at nothing to ensure Chloe doesn’t leave the nest. While Run employs a simple premise, it’s much more than it appears. Expect something far beyond Mommie Dearest and imagine instead the sheer desperation of a rudderless mother who sees her entire world – which she has invested solely in her offspring – fraying at the seams, threatening her most precious possession. Unfortunately, this mother’s young doesn’t need protection from outsiders. Chloe’s biggest threat is the woman who swears repeatedly that she’ll never hurt her.
Fans of Paulson will revel in a new level of her already impressive range with Run. Diane is far from lovable, and lacks any redemptive quality. In fact, her only endearment comes from pity, which is often granted begrudgingly from an audience who will no doubt question their own instincts to forgive her sad-eyed groveling. Paulson’s recent performance in the Netflix series Ratched – where she offers a (temporarily) softer side to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Nurse Ratched through the woman’s origin story – proved how she can humanize a villain. However, there’s no sympathy earned here; Diane is malicious and venomous, shifting between maternal softness that feels like crocodile tears and tenuous instability like a true chameleon. As much as one might want to empathize with the concept of a mother, who almost lost her precious child due to a premature birth once already, feeling the agony of empty nest syndrome, it’s impossible. Paulson operates with true darkness hidden beneath a kindly face — Diane could easily be a friendly neighbor, a fellow PTA mom, or even a close friend.
Allen’s Chloe is the polar opposite; she’s a heroine with grit and self-assuredness despite her situation. Chloe has been a captive all her life; she just doesn’t fully realize that until she wants out. Even with that background, she’s self-sufficient, shows her independence and, beyond that, reiterates that each minuscule amount of independence she has attained has been a battle hard-fought and earned. Even something that seems like a small press against her substantial boundaries – like taking an extra chocolate candy to her room – is met with steel and arguments. Diane scolds Chloe. Then, in practically the same breath, plays the victim, citing her task of making Chloe’s home-prepared meals with freshly grown produce to help regulate her blood sugar levels, as Chloe is diabetic, as some sort of boon. Chloe should be more considerate of her mother, she should be more grateful for what’s she done. But then, just to prove her love, Chloe can keep the chocolate. Run is a modern-day Gaslight with more bite stemming from its mother/daughter dynamic.
Run is one not to be missed by fans of classic psychological thrillers. With a twist ending that feels like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, there’s a lot to unpack in this movie. Acting as a commentary on mental illness, strained familial dynamics, and the lengths that the truly hopeless will go to in order to maintain some semblance of normalcy, Run is something that must be experienced and marveled at — Paulson and Allen take full command of every scene they’re in, and the ones where they’re at odds with each other hit the hardest. It’s a battle for autonomy that’s shockingly relatable despite feeling like an intense fever dream at times.
Though the messaging can get a little lost in the thematic intensity on occasion, Run allows for complete audience immersion for the duration, and at times, even makes them second-guess themselves. Just as Chloe is beginning to question the nature of her situation, so too does the audience experience moments of wondering if what they just saw is truly happening or Chaganty is just setting up another skillful sleight of hand.
Next: Run Movie Trailer
Run is available on Hulu November 20, 2020. It is 90 minutes long and rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, some violence/terror and language.
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