Run is the story of a boy desperate to get away from his boring, dead-end hometown, and turns to racing cars as the only opportunity to inject a little excitement into his life. It’s also the story of a man who is deeply dissatisfied with the person he has become and the life he now feels trapped in. They are the same person, but they’re also father and son. This is the cyclical nature of life in the Scottish racing subculture that Run depicts, where generation after generation of disaffected youth find a rush of adrenaline in racing, then go on to lead practically identical lives.
Finne (Mark Stanley) works at a fishery, and he hates it. You need only watch the way he scrubs himself down after a shift until his hands are red and raw to see that he is ashamed and frustrated by the way he makes his living. He’s young, too young to have a son in his late teens and way too young to have a life full of regrets. He’s irritable, feeling as though he’s somehow let all of the opportunity he’s going to have slip by. His fingers itch to simply drive off and leave everything behind. So he does.
For a while, anyway. His impulsive decision to borrow (steal?) his son Kid’s car hits a snag when Kid’s recently dumped and slightly pregnant girlfriend Kelly (Marli Sui) hops in on the passenger’s side, hoping to talk to Kid.
The two are, in some ways, kindred spirits. Both have jobs that physically disgust them (Finnie refuses to be affectionate with his wife after work because he’s painfully aware of how badly he smells, Kelly brings perfume for her hands to work to try to mask the scent of bowling shoe cleaner) and there is a certain symmetry to their relationship. When they look at each other, Finnie sees the younger version of his wife Katie and Kelly sees a more mature version of her boyfriend Kid. Kelly allows Finnie a chance to tap into the energy and confidence of his youth.
When you live in a small town, where there’s absolutely nothing to do and the nearest mall is a thirty-minute drive away, getting a car as a teenager is a rite of passage. It’s a symbol of independence: you go where you want when you want, as fast as you can. That freedom naturally feeds into a desire to get away and escape the life trajectory of the beaten-down, world-weary people that populate their hometown. The presence of Bruce Springsteen’s rebellious energy in the film is entirely appropriate: the characters all feel as though they’re living out the Scottish version of the life Bruce sang about frequently. Finnie’s wife Katie has a “born to run” tattoo, one that haunts him whenever he sees it. It serves as a constant reminder that he didn’t get to run very far at all.
More than anything else, Run is a drama about regret, and how heavily discontent can weigh upon a soul. It’s human nature to wonder what might have been if things were different, but you’re doomed to despair if you can’t find a way to build a new vision of what you want your future to look like. Director/writer Scott Graham’s is authentic and honest, and the lyrical Scots dialect used in the film adds an additional layer of realism to Run’s working-class universe. (The film is presented with subtitles, presumably to head off complaints of incomprehensibility from audiences that have plagued Scottish films since the days of Gregory’s Girl and beyond.) He has a unique understanding of what makes these sorts of characters inherently compelling, and his excellent cast is fully committed to exercising his vision. A triumph of small-scale, character-driven independent cinema, Run is a joy to watch.
Directed by: Scott Graham
Cast: Mark Stanley, Amy Manson, Marli Siu