While the storyline is mostly predictable, the stellar performances of Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen are quite the opposite. The duo act as the film’s saving graces, keeping audiences glued to their screens with nail-biting twists and turns. The thriller ultimately does what it sets out to achieve: thrill.
What happens when you merge Psycho’s Norman Bates with Misery’s Annie Wilkes? You get Diane Sherman in Run, the maniacal, syringe-wielding mother who just wants to ‘protect’ her daughter. Aneesh Chaganty’s campy psychological thriller sees Ratched star Sarah Paulson play Diane Sherman (a match made in heaven) taking her ability to portray a wicked tyrant to the next level. The sole victim of this tyranny comes in the form of intelligent, wheelchair-using daughter Chloe Sherman, played by Kiera Allen who delivers a promising performance in her feature-film debut.
Audiences are immediately thrown into the action as Diane gives birth to her daughter prematurely amongst spooky green lighting reminiscent of Ratched. Barely surviving, Chloe is plagued with numerous health issues, forcing her to use a wheelchair. Nevertheless, Chloe seems like a relatively happy teenager, driven by her desire to attend college. Chloe and Diane regularly eat meals together and sometimes go to the movies. You would think that this mother-daughter relationship is filled with love, but Chloe’s desire for independence is indicative of a typical teenage lifestyle. Though it becomes rapidly crystal-clear that Diane is apprehensive about losing her darling daughter to the world.
Understandably confused, Chloe notices something bizarre about her new medication. Suspicions begin to grow and soon enough, Chloe is on Diane’s case. As Chloe scours desperately for answers, she runs into sudden roadblocks, all in the form of Diane. Chloe embarks on a hellish mission to unravel the compelling mysteries. What makes Run so exhilarating is that audiences piece the puzzle together simultaneously alongside Chloe, making the experience all the more enthralling. The final third is packed with suspenseful (sometimes predictable) twists leading to a satisfying conclusion.
The performances carry this film. Paulson remains composed as ever. A natural in the insanity-fuelled role, her technique is so convincing that you may struggle to take your eyes away from the screen in awe of her raw talent. Paulson keeps you on edge throughout the film with her simple facial expressions which are striking enough to amplify the unstable aura surrounding Diane.
Meanwhile, casting Allen as Chloe was exceptional. Positioning the newcomer alongside Paulson provided the former with the opportunity of a lifetime in her debut. To say that Allen took full advantage of that chance would be a massive understatement. Allen shines bright alongside Paulson and, considering this is their first on-screen partnership, their chemistry is indubitable. Allen showcases her tremendous ability in switching from the humorous to the meaningful, her character feels human in this sense- witty one minute, serious the next. Holding her own next to Paulson will undeniably elevate Allen into a global attraction in future films. This is the first major thriller starring a wheelchair user since The Sign of the Ram (1948). Both refreshing and faithful, this casting decision represents a much-needed step towards equality in Hollywood. Here’s hoping we see more of Paulson and Allen together in future projects.
As for the director, Chaganty collaborates again with co-writer Sev Ohanian, after previously worked together on his directorial debut Searching (2018). While it may not hit the heights of Searching, Run’s absurdness is filled with moments of touching and even tear-jerking drama. Furthermore, Torin Borrowdale’s spine-tingling score expertly adds extra layers to the emotions of the protagonists, heightening the intense atmosphere to the brim as Diane’s sinister smile is haunting enough to spark endless nightmares.
Run shares similar themes with classic horror Misery (1990), with a clever reference even paying homage to Kathy Bates who played Annie Wilkes. Psychological thriller Ma (2019) contains a somewhat-identical storyline to Run in that the protagonist is driven by her troubled past. Run’s downfall is that it follows the predictable storyline template already worn out by the aforementioned films. Run also lacks what Ma includes which is a protagonist backstory and Diane’s requires greater exploration. Perhaps this could be the plot for a potential sequel but the storyline of Run would be far more coherent in detailing the dramatic events in Diane’s life that shaped who she eventually becomes. That being said, a lack of character development is the only blemish which taints Paulson’s otherwise impressive performance.
Overall, Run is a fascinating joyride which provides gratifying viewer experience. If you’re looking for 90 minutes worth of throwaway entertainment, Run will tick all the right boxes and then some.
Run, directed by Aneesh Chaganty, is now available to stream on Netflix, certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: