Diane (Sarah Paulson), at last, gets to see her newborn daughter. On the verge of joyful tears, she asked the wall of medical personnel surrounding the tiny bundle of life, “Will she be OK?” No answer. Cut to black. Now remember to log that gasp down, for you will repeat it plenty more times throughout Run, the latest claustrophobic thriller from Searching’s Aneesh Chaganty.
Just one big difference, though — framing the story this time around are Panavision cameras rather than iPhones or GoPros. But even with that radical change, Chaganty can still have you glued to the screen, with the chief adhesive being the narrative he has conceived with frequent collaborator Sev Ohanian. Apparently, after all of Diane’s cooked meals, reminders to study, pills given and — we only see this once, but the smoothness in the delivery implies experience — verbal aims at jugulars of doubters, now university-age Chloe (Kiera Allen, in her feature debut and an actual wheelchair user) is resisting her mother’s love. Need for independence? Could be, she has been waiting for an offer letter. Paranoia? Smiles and soft tones aside, Diane isn’t exactly a flexible caretaker. Or is there a legitimate intention to hurt? How come one of the pills that Chloe is expected to consume is prescribed to Diane?
Who is really having an issue here?
You shall have the definite answer pretty early on, but then you’ll still find yourself forming questions. What is Diane doing? How is Chloe going to react? Switch the names around. Rinse and repeat until the last cut to black. Yet again Chaganty shows that his license to thrill is bona-fide — his writing ensures that right when we begin to wonder, he will promptly present a beat to nail us down, and as a director he ensures that none of those beats assume that the audience (or the leading duo) are gullible souls. Every gasp induced is ultimately earned because Chaganty and Ohanian have out-manoeuvred us and not from them taking shortcuts. And together with Hillary Fyfe Spera’s immuring photography plus Torin Borrowdale’s stalking melodies (perhaps the clearest homage-to-Hitchcock element) Run becomes a ride when you least expect it to. Another item the film shares with Searching — well, besides those two fun Easter eggs.
We also need to talk about Allen. She is a spark, apparently well-equipped to match whatever level (the alluringly witchy-esque) Paulson is on. She also adds more value to the considerate characterisation, directing our eyes to the notion that her character Chloe is a person first and everything else second. Run may have opened with a title card listing the conditions that ail Chloe, but only when hell freezes over does Chloe, and by extension Allen, let them define her. So much presence. So much fire. So much initiative that renders every subsequent escape attempt more suspenseful than the last and supplies a reason to root for Team Chloe. Do note, however, that disabled critics will give an undoubtedly richer assessment of Allen’s performance, so remember to seek them out as well. It would be interesting to see whether they perceive a key action from Chloe as in-line with what’s been seen or in service of blockbuster gods.
A recurring image in Run sees Paulson’s Diane pressing her left hand onto a glass barrier when staring at Allen’s Chloe, and it is up to you to think the gesture means “I want to hold you” or “I want to have you.” If this writer is Diane and Chaganty’s film is Chloe, you bet it’s the latter. Don’t be a slowpoke catching the delicious nerve-wracker that is this film when it hits your at-home cinemas in November.
Don’t forget to have a cold drink handy as well, to refresh yourself after all the gasping.
Run will be available on Hulu from November 20.