RUN is the latest film from director Aneesh Chaganty (Searching), and is co-written by Chaganty & Sev Ohanian, which centers around a teenager named Chloe who begins to suspect that her mom is hiding a dark secret. The film stars Sarah Paulson (Ratched), newcomer Kiera Allen, and Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills).
To best describe the film, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: They say you never escape a mother’s love…but for Chloe, that’s not a comfort – it’s a threat. There’s something unnatural, even sinister about the relationship between Chloe (Kiera Allen) and her mom, Diane (Sarah Paulson). Diane has raised her daughter in total isolation, controlling every move she’s made since birth, and there are secrets that Chloe’s only beginning to grasp.
For her debut feature film, Kiera Allen absolutely steals the show. Not many can go up against the acting chops of Sarah Paulson, but Allen takes on the challenge and more than delivers. Chloe has been homeschooled her whole life and is also situated under her mother’s thumb due to her medical condition and being a wheelchair user. As she’s finishing up her senior of high school, Chloe has dreams of going to college to study, what I presume to be, engineering; however, it becomes apparent that her dreams don’t align with what her mother wants.
Allen gives a performance that felt grounded and realistic but also shows the remarkable strength and determination that Chloe has. The transformation that Chloe ends up going through is remarkable and Allen is able to convey that through her facial features. We watch as she see goes from a bright eyed hopeful college student to a woman that needs to use all the resources she has available to survive a situation that no one would ever want to be in. Allen plays the role of Chloe perfectly and though this is only the start of her career, this will be the breakout role for her.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is that of Sarah Paulson, who once again gives a show-stopping performance as Chloe’s mom, Diane. She’s presented as a loving mom who is doing the best she can for her daughter, which makes it easy to brush off her more manic behavior in the beginning. It’s easy to justify her being overwhelmed while caring for someone that has a disability; however, as the film progresses, we see a darkness that overtakes Diane and permeates itself throughout the film, resulting in Diane becoming more and more unhinged. Paulson takes on layered, complicated roles with an ease most of her contemporaries must envy and I’m always amazed at the length she’s willing to go to show the terror that can reside within people. Though she shares the spotlight with Allen, she never tries to overshadow her, instead giving Allen the space needed for her to showcase her blossoming talent.
Though co-writers Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian have written a story that could easily be ripped from today’s headlines, especially in regards to the topic surrounding Munchausen by proxy, don’t assume because of that that you have it all figure out. Though not as strong as Chaganty’s previous film, Searching, RUN managed to still surprise me with an ending that left me on the edge of my seat as the tension reached a crescendo and the final moments unfolded.
As someone who has had to use a walking cane and a wheelchair in the past, due to a condition I have, I was really impressed with the how Chaganty and Ohanian took great care in making sure the film had accurate representation. RUN gives viewers a heroine with a disability and there is so much power in that. What society perceives as Chloe’s “weakness”, in regards to her being in a wheelchair, is actually her strength. Just because Chloe uses a wheelchair doesn’t mean she isn’t capable of fighting for survival in any way she can. Chaganty and Ohanian crafted a story that had a protagonist that wasn’t defined by just her disability and I, for one, appreciated that. Furthermore, they took the time needed to cast an actor with a disability so as to give an actual authenticity to the role instead of using some well-known able-bodied actor for the role of Chloe.
RUN is a thriller that’ll get your heart pounding from the moment it starts, but the true horror lies in the toxic relationship that Diane has with her daughter. What makes that even more terrifying is that Chloe is confined to the house, by her mom, turning a once safe haven into a prison. Since the home is a character in and of itself, it’s presented in a way that elicits an overwhelming, claustrophobic feel as the walls around Chloe seem to push inwards. As the horrors unfold we experience that in real-time with Chloe, as she begins to realizes the horrific extents her mom will go to in the name of “protection”. Though the house can look daunting for someone in a wheelchair, this is when the inventive side of Chaganty and Ohanian take over. It reminded me of when the writers of “Breaking Bad” would purposely write the story into a corner in order for the characters to find a realistic solution to the problem that has arisen. I’m not sure if this is the approach that Chaganty and Ohanian took, but whatever the case may be, it worked.
In conclusion, Chaganty has not only given us a film that’s unnerving but another one that shows how important representation in film truly is. RUN may not hit as hard as Searching did in terms of some surprise narrative choices, but it’s still just as effective in showcasing how terrifying humans can be. With a stellar standout performance by Allen and another unforgettable performance by Paulson, RUN is a film that will have you cheering for our heroine while trying to escape the terror of a deranged parent’s love.
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