2018’s Searching, the directorial debut from Aneesh Chaganty, was a well-crafted, mystery/thriller displaying a father on a frantic search for the whereabouts of his daughter. Chaganty used devices such as social media and news reports that cultivated an anxiety-inducing atmosphere that uncovered familial secrets and a sinister undercurrent. With Chaganty’s second feature film, Run, he transplants what he learned from Searching‘s world-building style and places it within a tightly contained, entertaining thriller that works within the confines of one household and two principal characters. Reminiscent of the 1990’s movie adaptation of Stephen King‘s Misery, Run shows where unequivocal devotion can turn into a deadly web of secrets and unchecked boundaries.
Diane (Sarah Paulson) is a helicopter mother, even given her penchant for intrusiveness, there’s an unbridled dedication to the care of her daughter, Chloe (Kiera Allen). Chloe has a wide variety of ailments and health problems that stem back to her birth. In the very beginning of the film, we are brought to the hospital where Chloe is born and it’s hinted that there were be ramifications to her condition. Many years later, the home lives of Diane and Chloe have an established routine. As Chloe turns 17, she has become more self-reliant- much to the dismay of Diane. Little things seem to be out of place. Diane is very cagey over Diane checking the mail or going out on her own. She’s also averse to her collegiate aspirations. Chloe begins to be more inquisitive about a life that is set up for her since she was young and finds that things are not what they seem.
The story comprised by Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian gives weight to how Run unravels its mystery. Within the one and a half hour runtime, the movie is well-paced and takes its time showing the realizations that shift from Diane’s or Chloe’s perspective seamlessly. As Chloe gets closer to finding out about her origins, Diane unravels slowly. Cinematographer Hillary Spera frames wide shots that slowly zooms in on characters that feel like the world is caving in on them. Some scenes use darkness that gives the audiences a claustrophobic-like ambiance. The camera goes to Chloe’s peripheral view and scans rooms from her perspective, and dark spaces within the house feel like they are conspiring to work against her.
Both Paulson and Allen both provide great performances that bring this growing adversarial mother/daughter relationship to life on screen. Paulson manifests a mother in the throes of Munchhausen syndrome, and she will do anything to hold on to the life that she knows best. That’s to take care of her daughter as she carries it with almost a resentful coldness to it. A scene that shows her at a homeschooling support group in the first act of the film, hints at bitterness at Chloe experiencing things in life she never got to. Diane is caught in a constant loop of sadness and tragedy that unfortunately affects the person she loves the most.
Allen, in her first feature role, carries it with a veteran fervor. While Chloe’s character is disabled (as with Allen’s real-life condition), the movie doesn’t let that define her character. Chloe’s intelligence and unquenchable thirst to find the truth makes her rise above any impediment, either from her body or provided by Diane. Run’s structure stacks nerve-wracking scenes where Chloe might get discovered together, and they don’t get tiresome. In fact, once the movie hits its third act, you’re not even sure if an escape is possible. Torin Borrowdale‘s score for this film complements the Hitchcock-esque tautness where time things such as time aren’t on Chloe’s side. Will she get discovered? Is her mother one step ahead of her? The music of the film never lets up and allows a clear path to feeling at ease.
Run takes the influences from mystery/thriller films in the past and turns them into a restless and captivating modern film. The film sets the controls to only a certain amount of characters or a setting such as a house in isolation in the country. This only improves the story Run is trying to tell and will keep you invested from beginning to end.