Updated: Jul 13, 2021
The best thrillers are tightly-plotted suspense machines that trap you in their characters’ predicament, building tension with each piece of information imparted to the audience. In 2018, Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian teamed up to write Searching (which Chaganty directed), about a father looking for his missing daughter. The hook is that everything was seen exclusively through various devices (mainly computers and cellphones). It was a cleverly-devised movie (featuring an outstanding performance from John Cho) that easily generated suspense and sympathy via its protagonist’s terrifying situation. Their follow-up is Run (streaming on Hulu), a more conventionally-made thriller that also has a really good central performance. It contains individual scenes that are compelling, but is largely unable to carry the tension over to its plotting and one major character. It is still easy to see the talent of the writing team, yet Run ends up being a bit of a letdown.
Chloe has asthma, diabetes, a heart condition and is paralyzed from the waist down. Her mother, Diane, has dedicated her life to caring for her daughter, who now hopes to go away to college. When Diane begins exhibiting odd behavior, Chloe starts suspecting her mom of hiding some sinister secrets.
Run has a decent setup. Chaganty and Ohanian give us a smart, plucky, protagonist and put her in situations where she must think her way past her physical limitations. Unfortunately, Diane is such a caricature that even the great Sarah Paulson cannot make her big scenes believable. While Paulson does have a few impressive moments where you can see fear and anger seeping through her calm façade, she’s mostly a tool for the oftentimes ridiculous story. Paulson leans into the crazy in a way that would certainly have been more entertaining if she had been given an actual character to play.
Admittedly, I guessed all the twists right at the opening (showing Diane at the hospital, just after giving birth to her sick daughter), making it impossible for the movie to surprise me. I didn’t figure it out because I’m some kind of genius, or because Run is dumb; I figured it out because I’ve seen an insane number of movies and most twists have been done many times before. Predictability isn’t the issue here so much as the screenwriters’ inability to build momentum from scene-to-scene in a way that would make the fact that I already knew what was going to happen irrelevant. It’s strange considering that I liked Chloe and was fully invested in how she solved problems on a moment-by-moment basis; however, the overall plot never grabbed me. I think that’s because Chloe felt real (or at least as real as possible in something like this), but I never believed Diane’s actions. So, though parts worked, the whole didn’t.
A big reason I was able to remain mildly engaged despite not being entirely into Run is Kiera Allen, who stars in her feature debut as Chloe. She brings determination, intelligence and vulnerability to a character who needed large doses of all three. The stretches showing her thinking her way out of problems or carrying out dangerous plans are absolutely captivating. The scene involving her attempt to get out of her room is strong in its acting and directing. Another, where she tries to make a phone call without her mom finding out, is also well-structed. They hint at what this could’ve been had everything else been as developed as Chloe.
What I did not know before I watched it is that Allen is disabled in real life. That brings an added intensity to her struggles that I felt even before I knew. She creates a good thriller hero, not because she is disabled, but because she understands Chloe and makes her feel like a three-dimensional person; exactly what actors are supposed to do. Kiera Allen is almost enough for me to recommend Run, even if the rest of the movie isn’t nearly as worthwhile.
2¾ out of 5
Kiera Allen as Chloe Sherman
Sarah Paulson as Diane Sherman
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian