Cast: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty.
There is a shot in the latest Netflix offering, Run, that sees the venerable Sarah Paulson simply driving and looking around intently. For too long, Paulson has been wasted in films, as glorified cameos or in work either undeserving of her talents or not using her to its advantage. Having toiled away in TV for Mr Ryan Murphy and earning a stack of awards and nominations in the process, it’s a wonder why she hasn’t yet found that role to really cement her.
Aneesh “Searching” Chaganty brings us this thriller following a wheelchair-bound teen (Keira Allen) who suspects her mother (Paulson) is hiding something from her.
Chaganty burst onto the scene with the brilliant John Cho thriller Searching, and here he tells another story of a single parent smothering their child in protection. Unlike the open window and screen gimmick of Searching, Run is much more in the mould of a Hitchcock thriller or the 90s’ home invasion trend. This owes more to something like Rear Window or The Hand that Rocks the Cradle than it does more modern thrillers with its slow-building tension.
The film should be given kudos just for using a real wheelchair user in the lead role. Allen is another positive step forward in the representation of people with disabilities playing roles designed for them, like Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place, you get the feeling Allen has included some of her own experiences into the role of Chloe.
But really the film belongs to Sarah Paulson’s turn as the overprotective Diane. Paulson commands attention whenever she’s on the screen; her eyes and the way her voice breaks when she cries are used to full effect. There are sly nods to Stephen King and Misery and you get the feeling that — not being content with playing Nurse Ratched — Paulson would devour the role of Annie Wilkes if given the chance.
The film is nothing new, it’s the same psycho house arrest thriller you’ve seen a hundred times before – no doubt on Netflix evenings – but Chaganty and Shev Ohanian write with a knowing wit, and subvert expectations where they can. Chaganty’s direction is sure-footed, and filled with the creeping claustrophobia and tension needed to fully immerse you in a thriller of this nature.
The film shows its hand a little early, but only so that the rest of the picture can explore the pure joy of seeing one bad thing pile on top of another, and it doesn’t break the intimate nature of its story to go for a big action climax, instead opting to keep the tension heavy and character-based throughout.
The film also has a satisfying close, wrapping the narrative up with a conclusion that will send you off feeling you got a complete story, which can be rare in modern films. The thrills that the film offers are in cliché territory, but this is offset by the subtle and minor subversions that they offer as well as that barnstorming lead role from Paulson.
It’s a perfect thriller for a locked-down evening in, even if it will make you question your own mother’s tactics as a parent.