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edge staff writer


Mommy fearest - ‘Run’

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Most of us have a pretty good understanding of the power of a mother’s love. Heaven knows we’ve seen it portrayed enough times on page, stage and screen. The majority of the time, we’re given a sense of not just the power, but the purity of that power. A mother’s love is meaningful and unconditional.

But when that love turns toxic, when it becomes all-consuming? That’s when we bear witness to the darkness, for there can be no light without shadow.

“Run,” the new movie from Hulu, offers us a look at that toxic darkness. Directed and co-written by Aneesh Chaganty, the talented filmmaker behind 2018’s excellent “Searching,” this is a chilling and emotionally charged dive into the circumstances of one mother’s love and how fear and delusion can twist that relationship into something dark and hurtful.

We’ve seen variations on the “mother from hell” formula before, but few have achieved this level of genuine scares. Sure, there are a couple of moments that threaten to teeter over the edge into camp – always a concern with these kinds of movies – but Chaganty’s steady hand and a pair of dynamite performances keep things on the rails. That barely-restrained sense of impending lunacy contributes greatly to what is ultimately a top-notch viewing experience.

Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson, TV’s “Ratched”) has devoted her life to raising her daughter at the expense of everything else; the child was born with numerous health issues – asthma and skin conditions and extreme leg weakness that confines her to a wheelchair. But Chloe (Kiera Allen in her feature debut) has still managed to grow into a smart, lovely young woman, and now, at 17, she’s preparing to finally leave the nest and head off to college, though she’s still waiting to hear.

Diane and Chloe seem to make a good team; while Diane does come off as overprotective, it’s all in service to Chloe’s well-being. Or at least, that’s how it appears at first glance. But upon closer examination, things don’t fully add up.

It’s when Chloe finally takes it upon herself to examine the situation with a more critical eye that she starts to have some serious questions – questions that her mother seems content to laugh off or ignore. And as Chloe digs deeper discovers more and more about the underlying truth of her situation, she realizes that there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her mother and their situation. But for her part, Diane is bound and determined to protect her daughter … though in this case, it seems as though the cure might be worse than the disease.

As the truth comes out, Chloe has to confront some unpleasant realities, both about herself and about her mom. But there are some secrets that don’t want to be brought to light, and Diane is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to keep those secrets in the shadows … and keep her baby girl safe forever.

“Run” is a taut, well-constructed thriller. The reveals are parceled out effectively, with the convolutions of the narrative maintained beautifully. It’s a twisty-turny plot, to be sure, but never gratuitously so. It’s the sort of wild story that could easily have spiraled out-of-control, but even those moments that go bonkers high manage to reach the top without ever going over it.

It’s also an interesting look at the knots that love can twist us into. There are those whose love for another is deeply entangled with their own self-worth; that entanglement can potentially lead the lover down some dark paths, all internally justifiable by the skewed understanding of what love actually is. “Run” paints a portrait of that love in a vivid and visceral manner that borders on the lurid, lending the proceedings a compelling pulpiness that is engaging as hell to watch. Chaganty does a wonderful job of balancing the blandly cheery hominess of life in the Sherman household and the just-off vibe of creeping dread just beneath the surface.

None of this works, by the way, without exceptional performances from the two leads. While there are a handful of scenes that feature other characters, the vast majority of this film is a single-setting two-hander. It’s no surprise that Sarah Paulson crushes it here; she’s long been established as one of Hollywood’s best weirdoes. She’s great all around, but she particularly shines when she’s playing the part of dutiful parent while also heavily gaslighting her daughter. The veneer of gentility covers a fractured, fractious core – she doles out the cracks with a meticulousness that is extremely effective. Perhaps even more impressive is Allen, who both more than holds her own opposite Paulson AND manages to command the screen completely solo. Watching her watch her world disintegrate is incredible to watch; it’s rendered all the more incredible by the fact that this is her feature debut. Seriously – it is legitimately amazing that this is her first film.

Granted, “Run” has a few underlying flaws in its narrative, but they’re relatively minor; don’t dwell on the bumps in the road and you’ll absolutely enjoy the ride. It’s a thrilling and unsettling exploration of the idea that while a mother’s love is truly powerful, that power can potentially be used for evil as well as good.

[4.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 23 November 2020 11:52


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