Being a parent is just plain hard. As the father of a 3 year-old and a 7-month old, I can personally attest that the hardest moments of life are often associated with the crippling insecurity and self-doubt that accompanies every decision you make for your child. You second-guess literally everything no matter how simple or mundane.
This basic concept can lead to many different styles of parenting but it can also lead to a parent doing what many might find unthinkable but they simply see as necessary to “protecting” their child. It’s this basic concept that sets up Hulu’s new drama Run which is one part slow-burning mystery and one part, “WHAT THE HELL?!”
The film follows the daily lives of Diane (Sara Paulson) and Chloe Sherman (Kiera Allen). Chloe is a kid with a ton of medical issues. Our first shots in this film are of Diane looking over her prematurely born child followed by five defined medical conditions on the screen we’re meant to believe this child now possesses including a heart condition, asthma and involuntary muscle paralysis of the legs among others.
Cut to 17 years later and Diane seems to have adjusted pretty well to the whole scenario. In a support group she’s the only one who seems un-phased by her daughters’ impending move to college from their home school environment. Chloe is also well-adjusted with a settled routine that’s almost militaristic in its precision every day. Put simply, Chloe may be in a wheelchair and have medical conditions for days but she and Diane have this life seemingly down pat.
However things are not always what they seem. Chloe notices a new medication bottle with her mother’s name on it in a bag of groceries. But despite this, those same pills are given to her as a new medication in with her typical doses. This seemingly simple event begins a cascade of doubt and suspicion which leads to an incredible amount of WTF moments.
Now I won’t go any further into the details as the methodical pace of the unraveling mystery is much of the fun of this thriller. Like all great mysteries the story takes its time to make us feel the same things that Chloe is. As things begin to look more and more unstable and incapable of logical explanation we are right there with Chloe in trying to rationalize; perhaps even longer than we really should.
The film is held up by two fantastic lead performances. This should be no surprise in Paulson’s case as we’ve all watched her ascend from the many projects of Ryan Murphy to a legit leading player that can carry any project on her back. And as good as she is as the seemingly together but fully unstable Diane, it’s newcomer Kiera Allen that truly makes the impression.
It feels so good to cast a wheel-chair bound actress to play a wheel-chair bound character and you can tell that Ms. Allen is not limited by the bounds of her condition. Chloe has an indelible strength about her that could only come from dealing with hardships every day for your whole life. We never doubt that Chloe is capable of anything even while watching her pull herself across an entire rooftop or throw herself down a flight of stairs. Allen plays Chloe as not only capable but way smarter than most of us could ever hope to be and quite the intrepid detective on top of that.
The film is directed by Aneesh Chaganty whose first full feature was another slowly unraveling mystery in the 2018 thriller Searching. In both of these films Chaganty has shown in incredible amount of touch where most directors would rush forward. The best mysteries are the ones that make us doubt what we already suspect to be true, however little that may be. Even in the face of the mounting evidence, there’s still a little voice in the back of our head that wants to think the innocence can win out. A lot of that has to be the incredible sincerity Paulson pulls out of Diane at the opening segments of this film. But the other part is simpler: we just always want to believe that parents naturally always do what is best for their children.
If there is one criticism of the film that last for this reviewer it’s that the final act does seem to drag just slightly. And while the shock finale isn’t totally unwelcome, it’s also not entirely necessary and moves a little into the camp category for me. Still the bones of this thriller are solid and the whole thing feels a lot like the great slow-burning Hitchcock films of the 60s. And that is perhaps the best compliment you can possibly pay a movie like Run.