With debut feature Searching, filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty created surprising poignancy and tension in a thriller that played out entirely from a laptop screen. His follow-up, Run, takes a giant step forward, delivering a more conventional feature full of Hitchcockian suspense and one deranged cat-and-mouse game. It may not get as twisty or surprising as Chaganty’s previous effort, but Run does deliver on breakneck thrills and entertainment value.
Run opens with a scene that sees a group of doctors clustered around a premature baby, doing everything they can to spark life. The baby’s mother, Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson), nervously awaits news. Cut to seventeen years later, Diane lives alone at a rural home with daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen), who uses a wheelchair. Chloe is homeschooled and on a strict regimen of an obscene number of prescription medications for many maladies assumed to stem from birth. The teen is desperate to begin life outside of the home she’d been raised, eagerly awaiting acceptance letters for college. Then she finds a new prescription bottle with her mother’s name on it, not hers, and it arouses a suspicion that escalates.
Diane might be keeping a very sinister secret from her.
Chaganty keeps the tension tautly wound throughout, moving the narrative along at a brisk clip. There’s no fat on this lean thriller. There’s also not much in the way of surprises; you get exactly what you expect here. What keeps it engaging is the sharp editing, stellar suspense, and two lead performances that sell the hell out of a plot that could read as schlocky melodrama in lesser hands. It helps that it’s framed from Chloe’s perspective as she pieces everything together while under firm lock and key.
Paulson’s Diane is deranged. She’s every bit the doting mother that she claims but in the most harmful way. Newcomer Allen more than holds her own against Paulson, offering a savvy protagonist and a formidable opponent in a breathless cat-and-mouse thriller. Allen herself is a wheelchair user. It adds a necessary authenticity to her character; the physicality and athleticism involved in maneuvering the wheelchair in the more intense, action-based sequences could only come from someone with experience in using one. This, combined with Allen’s natural affability, gives Chloe effortless rooting interest.
The script, co-written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, struggles with a suspension of disbelief in a couple of key places. Chloe jumps right into the mistrust of her mother at the first suspicious sign. Sure, she’s not wrong, but it’s a giant leap to make considering her mother is essentially her whole world. There’s also a tacked-on coda that feels unnecessary outside of delivering one final punchline. Don’t expect much depth, either.
Run is well-crafted and a highly entertaining thriller that’ll keep you hooked from beginning to end. It’s well shot and edited, and grounded by two fantastic leading ladies. Chaganty has a firm grasp on building Hitchcockian suspense levels and knows how to keep things moving along at breakneck speed. There are no real surprises in store, but that’s okay. Even with a basic plot we’ve seen before, Run delivers on the thrills.
Run will release exclusively on Hulu on November 20, 2020.