Parking up next to a small-town American cinema, you see the name of the film Diane (Sarah Paulson) and daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen) are there to watch: "Breakout". Though it's one step away from The Great Escape, this cinema trip encapsulates both the central tension of Run and the way it is approached. The intensity and endurance of the thrills are lightened by a self-awareness, unafraid to dip a toe into the pulpy nature of thrillers, resulting in a forceful sophomore feature.
Aneesh Chaganty's follow-up to his debut Searching is a Stephen King-esque thriller that, much like its predecessor, focuses on family and the lengths to which a parent will go to protect their child. Or at least, that's what it wants you to think. For seventeen years, Diane has been the sole caregiver to her daughter Chloe, who has a number of debilitating medical conditions including arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, asthma, diabetes and paralysis. Their seemingly contented life of home-schooling, garden cooking and the odd trip to the cinema is unsettled, however, when Chloe discovers the pills she has been taking were never prescribed to her, but instead, her mother. From that point, Run takes you on a slick journey of suspense and competition between mother and daughter.
Through the summary and trailers of this film, you know that Chloe isn't as sick as she believes she is, even before you start watching. From the moment you see Paulson's Diane on-screen, bathed in the sickly green light of a hospital room agonising over the health of her prematurely born daughter, you know not to trust her. How do you balance this with the ability to still shock and entertain the viewer? Chaganty's answer is to not try and hide it. While aligning you with Chloe and letting her figure it out piece by piece, he places Diane in the background of shots, sat in the dark with a glass of red wine at hand, an ominous look lingering in her eye. It's a little silly but far more effective than including twists for the sake of trying to shock. Rather it relishes its dramatic irony.
The majority of the film takes place in Diane and Chloe's home. A quaint farmhouse dropped in the middle of nowhere, it is a limited setting that allows the focus to remain on the great performances from Paulson and Allen. Having recently been a hit as the titular Nurse Ratched in Ratched, nobody is surprised by how harrowing she is as Diane, with an unpredictability that maintains your attention whenever she's on-screen. The same can be said for Allen. In her feature debut, she seems to thrive off working with Paulson and gives a fearless performance, even when delivering lines that are soaked with sardonic humour. It's nice to note that this simultaneously comes as a win for authentic disability representation as Allen herself is a wheelchair user.
Much like its precursor, Searching, some may find issue with the limitation of Run's setting and basic premise. With the power dynamic of mother vs daughter and non-disabled vs disabled-body, the film does run in circles of trapping and escaping, though the methods of doing so are compelling if sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Its lead performances, smooth pacing, and tense atmosphere, aided by the chilling score from Torin Borrowdale, make Run an exciting and entertaining watch that manages to keep you alert even when you already know what's going on. That's not to say there aren't a few turns in there, but in reality, this film works because it knows that it isn't a mind-blowing experience, and doesn't pretend to be.
Run will be available to watch on Hulu from November 20.