Aneesh Chaganty’s suspense thriller features excellent performances but suffers from too many plot holes.
The infuriating thing about Run is not that it’s bad, but that it’s always, constantly a half-step away from being good. All the pieces of a decent popcorn thriller are there. You’ve got the outstanding Sarah Paulson as the ultra-organized mom who’s hiding a dark and terrible secret from her daughter. You’ve got newcomer Kiera Allen playing daughter Chloe, a girl who suffers from a debilitating list of disabilities, including paralysis from the waist down, completely holding her own on screen. You’ve got a plot with enough twists and turns to keep you curious as to how it’ll all turn out even if you can make some guesses about what’s coming next.
The problem is that in almost every key scene, a crucial piece of the puzzle is missing. Run is a film so full of half-measures that you begin to wonder if it wouldn’t be better off as Trot, or maybe Jog or Power Walk. And it all comes down to the weakness of the script itself.
Director Aneesh Chaganty (Searching) teamed up with another novice writer, Sev Ohanian, to write the script and the result is something of a mess. Neither seem to understand what the audience needs to know for certain scenes to have any impact.
To understand what I mean, let’s cut straight to the core of the film: the relationship between mom Diane (Paulson) and her 17-year-old daughter Chloe. We first meet Diane in a meeting with other parents where she proudly states how excited she is for her kid to head off to college soon. We then see Diane homeschooling Chloe, helping her with her homework, doling out her numerous medications, and the two of them laughing together over dinner. It’s a pretty sweet and loving depiction of their family. So what causes the sudden and dramatic turn in their relationship? What makes Chloe start to question if her mother is being honest with her, if her mother is who she says she is at all?
Run is a film so full of half-measures that you begin to wonder if it wouldn’t be better off as Trot, or maybe Jog or Power Walk.
The answer is a frustrating one. Chloe becomes suspicious when she finds a bottle of pills in her mom’s grocery bag. These pills will become vital to the plot later on, and it’s clear that as soon as they appear, Chaganty and Ohanian want us to immediately raise our eyebrows. So what’s the issue?
The issue is that thus far in the story, all we know is that Chloe has a great relationship with her mom. So why on earth is she immediately so concerned over a bottle of pills she doesn’t recognize found in a completely typical place? Chloe doesn’t know what the pills are for and their home is already riddled with them so there’s nothing to hint at nefariousness there. They’re just… a prescription. That’s it. So why is Chloe so alarmed?
It’s one of those moments where you get the impression that Chaganty doesn’t know the answer to this either. Chloe is suspicious of the pills because if she isn’t, he doesn’t have a movie, and that’s that.
It’s this kind of half-thought-out shortsightedness that dogs the film at every turn. Characters are constantly making decisions that would make sense if only the filmmakers knew how to set up why they’re making them.
In another pivotal moment, Chloe must concoct a plan to escape her bedroom, but the plan is a complex one. All it needed to succeed was a few more well-placed establishing shots earlier in the film. But once again, the puzzle piece we need to have this scene come across as nail-bitingly tense is missing. So instead, we’re treated to a lengthy sequence where we have no idea what the hell Chloe is attempting to do. It’s not a matter of not understanding how she wants to get from point A to point B in the scene, it’s a matter of not knowing where the hell point B even is.
This is emblematic of Chaganty’s whole issue with the film. He simply doesn’t seem to understand what information the audience really requires to understand a scene and have the emotional impact land. He doesn’t know how to communicate these core facts, which leaves the audience in a weird state of limbo.
As frustrating as all of this is, Run isn’t a painful watch. It’s just also not a very fun one, either. If nothing else, hopefully it’s a springboard for Allen’s career and a training ground for Chaganty. But the truth is that ending up on Hulu instead of the big screen places this film exactly where it belongs: somewhere that won’t cost you $20 you’ll regret spending.
Run premieres on Hulu November 20th.