Run starts swiftly. The second feature picture by Aneesh Chaganty (Searching) once again proves the director’s extensive talent for capturing the powerful tension and the fear that reflects in well-crafted characters, at the same time impacting the audience’s viewing experience. In Run, the director adroitly showcases the thin line between love and ownership and how toxic and dangerous motherhood sometimes can be.
Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) appears to be a five-star mother who deserves a gold medal. She works, grows her own vegetables, cooks every meal, and takes care of her homeschooled adolescent daughter, Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen). The teenager was in a wheelchair since she can remember. Their bond is extremely strong, and it manifests in their interactions: whether they’re eating dinner or just talking. But everything advances into a nightmare soon after the film’s anxious action begins.
It all starts with a pill. A simple, green-white pill that Chloe must take alongside many other ones that sit neatly in her weekly med organizer. But it’s not prescribed to her, but rather for her mother. The suspicions about Diane only escalate with every newfound fact that Chloe discovers about her life and her mom. It becomes evident to the girl that Diane is not who she seems to be – she’s more dangerous.
Sarah Paulson has always had a natural aptitude for the horror/thriller genre and as Diane, the actress is thoroughly terrifying and outright frenzied. Diane is odd – instead of relaxing, watching a film, or going on a date, she spends nights drinking wine and watching Chloe’s home videos from the past. But, as the realization occurs and the teenager realizes that she may be in danger, Paulson’s performance transforms into something even odder and more petrifying. The actress acts with every fiber of her being, delivering a chilling, blood-curdling portrayal of a woman who desperately desires to be a mother, even if it means to keep Chloe from truly living her life. One of the scariest parts of Diane’s character are her eyes. The director makes sure to zoom in on her facial expressions as many times as he can. The character wraps her daughter around her finger, manipulates, and lies to the point where Diane actually believes in all of it.
Paulson’s co-star in Run, Kiera Allen, is a real show-stealer. Allen is a newcomer in acting, but you wouldn’t be able to tell – not even in the slightest. Her talent pours onto the screen, and passion is evident in everything that she does. The actress truly captivates a fear of someone in danger from the person who was supposed to care for her. From the very first second that we meet her, she wholeheartedly captures the audience’s undivided attention. The things that Allen does in the film are simply unimaginable. Tension reaches its peak in one of the scenes as Chloe races with time and tries to make it from the cinema to the pharmacy before her mother realizes that she’s gone. That scene alone, amongst many others, has the incredibly agitated viewer on the edge of the seat with hands clenched in a fist – we nearly want to scream: faster, Chloe, faster! There is another scene that absolutely takes a breath away, but I won’t spoil it to you – you’ll know when you see Kiera doing something utterly superb.
Both Paulson and Allen possess spectacular dynamics. The cat and mouse game that they play throughout the length of Run is extremely exhilarating, gripping, and incredibly satisfying in the end. They don’t leave you hanging and asking for more. They come a full circle with the ending that’s both wholesome and grim.
The subject of Munchausen by Proxy – a mental health disorder that’s a one of the points in Run, is a recurring topic that can be seen in films and television series. Just last year, we had a chance to see Hulu’s The Act, the series based on true events in which Patricia Arquette played Dee Dee Blanchard, a woman who was poisoning her daughter, Gypsy Rose. Regarding Run, Chaganty revisits the subject but gives it a twist that is not at all expected. The director takes the core subject but transforms it into something that portrays toxic motherhood, undiagnosed mental disorder, a maddening rollercoaster, and a race for the gruesome, shocking truth.
Chaganty also takes a good look at the subject of the mother’s love. In Diane’s case, the difference between love and ownership almost completely vanishes as the woman controls everything that her daughter does – including going to college. It appears that Diane is even jealous at some point. While her daughter is ready to move on and start her adult life, Paulson’s character attempts to hold her, no matter the cost. However, in the striking finale, we realize that every act will be condemned at some point; even if one does something, they believe it’s for good.
Run is another proof of Chaganty and Ohanian’s ability to create an all-embracing narrative that leaves the audience with many thoughts. While delivering breathtaking tension and polished characters, the creators further touch upon the relevant topics in contemporary society. Sarah Paulson is a master of providing us with terror, but it’s Kiera Allen who steals the audience’s attention. I hope I’ll see in many, many more projects.
Run will be available to stream on Hulu on November 20.