Run (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little thriller set between mother and daughter

You probably should know nothing at all before watching “Run”, a little thriller film which turns out to be quite smarter than it seems on the surface. Right from its very first scene, you will come to have a pretty good idea on what you are going to get, but, though it may not surprise you that much, the movie provides enough thrill and excitement to hold your attention during next 80 minutes, so I strongly suggests you not to read the following paragraphs if you really want to be entertained as much as possible.

The story of the movie mainly revolves around a woman named Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) and her adolescent daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen), and the early part of the movie quickly establishes how much Diane has been occupied with raising her daughter. As directly conveyed to us at the beginning of the film, Chloe has been suffering from a number of illnesses including asthma for years, and Diane has been paid lots of motherly attention to her daughter’s wellbeing in many aspects. Besides her daughter’s routine medication, she has willingly taken care of many other domestic matters including the healthy daily diet for her daughter, and she has also taught her daughter a lot of things via her exemplary homeschooling.

Although she is mostly bound to her wheelchair and home due to her physical disability, Chloe has been content and happy within her little cozy environment, and we observe what a good daughter she is to her mother. She has been a pretty good student under her mother’s thoughtful teaching, and she is now aspiring to be enrolled in a state university where she can pursue her dream of becoming a prosthetics engineer someday.

As a matter of fact, Chloe has been waiting for the reply from that state university since she sent her application form some time ago, but there has not been any letter sent to her yet. Whenever Diane checks the latest mails sent to their residence as usual, she assures to Chloe that she will promptly notify Chloe on anything important for her, and Chloe initially trusts her mother’s words, but then doubt grows in her mind after she notices something quite suspicious from her mother at one point.

Of course, this shadow of doubt in Chloe’s mind becomes larger as she comes to notice more strange things from her mother. For instance, she is perplexed to discover that one of several different pills she has taken everyday is prescribed to her mother instead of her, and her suspicion only grows more even after her mother gives her a seemingly plausible explanation on that. When she later attempts to get to the bottom of this matter, she becomes more aware of how firmly and ominously her mother has been standing between her and the world outside, and that accordingly leads to a subtly tense moment between them on the very next day.

Although what has been lurking beneath the relationship between Chloe and her mother is exposed sooner than you might expect, the screenplay by director Aneesh Chaganty and his co-writer Sev Ohanian, who also produced the film along with Natalie Qasabian, did a skillful job of dialing up and down the level of suspense along the increasingly disturbing battle of wits between its two main characters. Both of them are clever enough to sense and guess what they do not reveal to each other on the surface, and the movie deftly toys with our expectation during a number of key scenes including the one associated with Chloe’s attempt on the identification of that questionable pill.

During its second half, the movie comes to lose a bit of its narrative momentum as having nearly all of its cards unfolded to us, but it still keeps engaging us nonetheless, and we accordingly become more emotionally involved in what will eventually happen between its two main characters. While the expected climatic moment is a little too predictable in my inconsequential opinion, the movie deftly delivers an effective dramatic punch for us at least, and you may also like a little nasty touch in the following epilogue scene.

Because it is basically a two-hander piece, the movie surely depends a lot on the presence and talent of its two lead performers, who dexterously complement each other as their conflicting characters push or pull each other throughout the film. While Sarah Paulson, who has been always dependable since her breakthrough turns in TV series “American Horror Story”, has a lot of fun with her character’s shifty aspects, newcomer Kiera Allen, who is actually a physically disabled person as shown in the film (She is the first female wheelchair-using actress to appear in a suspense film since Susan Peters in “The Sign of the Ram” (1948), by the way), does more than holding her own place well in front of her seasoned co-star, and I sincerely hope that the movie will lead her to more good opportunities in the future.

On the whole, “Run” feels less refreshing and surprising compared to Chaganty’s debut feature film “Searching” (2018), but this is a smart and efficient genre piece which handles its familiar story promise quite well. In contrast to pushing one fascinating story device all the way in “Searching”, Chaganty attempts here something quite plain and basic to the core, and he admirably succeeds in addition to confirming to us that he is indeed a good filmmaker who does know how to engage and thrill us. Yes, I clearly saw through it from the beginning, but I did not mind that at all as savoring its suspenseful moments enough, and I assure you that you will appreciate the efforts and skills packed into it.

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2 Responses to Run (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little thriller set between mother and daughter

  1. kyonggimike says:

    At a quick glance on Imdb, the film seems to get better notices from the critics than from the public. I found it pretty exciting while it lasted, but left wondering how on earth the situation we find at the beginning of the film could have come about.

    SC: Could you explain further?

  2. kyonggimike says:

    We see a photo of Chloe at age 2, apparently in perfect health. 15 years later, she’s wheelchair-bound and suffering from multiple illnesses and disabilities, requiring a host of medications. Where have these all come from? Were they somehow inflicted on her by mother? Why has nobody noticed anything untoward?

    SC: She was not sick at all, but her mother has deliberately made her look sick via a number of pills since that, I guess. For example, one of the pills for her turns out to be a substance for weakening her leg muscles for years. In addition, I think she and her mother moved to their current area from somewhere after her mother started to make her look sick.

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