In the same vein as 2018’s “Sharp Objects” and 2019’s “The Act,” 2020’s “Run” explores the fear that the person who is meant to care and protect you is actually the one you need protection from. From the director of “Searching,” a 2018 thriller that takes place completely on a laptop screen, Aneesh Chaganty’s “Run” tells a familiar tale of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. However, unlike “Searching,” instead of being restricted by technology, this film’s ‘restrictions’ come in the form of its settings, or lack thereof.
“American Horror Story” and recent “Ratched” actress Sarah Paulson stars alongside newcomer Kiera Allen as her protective and often overbearing mother Diane. Chloe, played by Allen, is a wheelchair user homeschooled by her mother and without access to a cellphone or any other social connection to the outside world. After discovering something suspicious about a prescription, Chloe begins to question her mother’s true intentions.
Paulson and Allen make up the entirety of the main cast. Everyone else has minor roles with no more than five minutes of screen time. This allows us to focus on the central relationship between Diane and Chloe without any distractions. The lack of other characters also adds to the isolation of the movie, putting the audience in an unconscious mindset closer to Chloe’s, who, in addition to being homeschooled her entire life, cannot leave her house without assistance from her mother.
Although most of the viewership for this movie will continue to come from those made aware of its presence by the pure magnetism of Paulson, Allen holds more than her own acting with and against the Emmy awarding winning actress. Paulson is widely known for her flashy roles: screams and cries of anguish or rage are hallmarks of the characters she plays, and this one is no different. She continues to bring everything that she is known for with the same skill and prowess, but it is just that — only what she is known for. The real star of the film is Allen, whose first time in a feature film is nothing short of gripping and intense. Allen’s performance as Chloe perfectly captures and balances her character’s independent and determined nature with the paranoia that begins to set in when the only person she has contact with might not be who she thought she was.
Drawing from the likes of Hitchcock staples like “Rear Window” or “Rope,” Chaganty confines the film’s characters to one main setting. Though not as strict in its one setting adherence as “Rope” or “Rear Window,” the majority and main conflict of the film is limited to inside the house. Chaganty even includes a sly nod to an iconic stuck-in-one-place horror classic, “Misery,” based on the 1987 Stephen King novel of the same name. The name of the pharmacist is Kathy Bates, a reference to the actress who plays Annie Wilkes, the antagonist in “Misery” who keeps novelist Paul Sheldon captive in her secluded cabin.
There is a brief escape to the town mid-film, but it isn’t until the end where the audience is treated to a change in setting.
This confinement to one place can be seen as a parallel to current times, where stay-at-home orders are returning in the U.S. and quarantining is a normal occurrence. Although the circumstances are not exactly the same, the core feelings of isolation and hopelessness remain.
In an interview with Letterboxd, director Chaganty stated that he and his team had “created the leading role in Run specifically for an actress in a wheelchair” after becoming “aware of the life-changing consequences of representation in cinema.” Allen, a wheelchair user in real life, was constantly consulted on the script and on production design after being brought onto set. In the same interview with Letterboxd, Chaganty said that “So much changed because she told us that this is not how she lives,” even discussing and adjusting the film’s ending with Allen to “avoid any insinuations of ableism.”
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Allen stated that the “film is unusual in the way it portrays disability, not only in the authenticity of casting, but in the story.” She continues by saying that “[Chloe] defines her own journey. Her disability is a part of that, but it doesn’t define who she is.”
Due to its familiarity, “Run” is a pretty predictable thriller through and through. Despite its foreseeable turn of events, it manages to not only hold the audience’s attention but to often clutch onto it throughout its runtime. In a year filled with delayed releases leading to an especially barren horror and thriller slate, “Run” is a solid and accessible option for those looking for something new to keep their blood pumping.
Hilary Gil is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.