Saturday, November 28, 2020

Getting Out: RUN.

You’d think a child abuse thriller would be irreconcilably icky at best, downright exploitative at worst, but writer-director Aneesh Chaganty’s Run. is too smartly constructed to fall into those traps. It’s a film about Munchausen by proxy, the mental health problem in which the afflicted deliberately makes another person sick in order to care for them. In this case it’s the mother (Sarah Paulson) whose wheelchair-bound teenage daughter (newcomer Kiera Allen) is not as afflicted as she appears to be. Those pills she’s fed? The diseases and disorders with which she’s struggling? Side-effects of her mother’s disorder. This is a fascinating and horrifying situation on its own, the sickly intermingling of motherly love with blinding cruelty, and the twisted intimacy of the effects. Anyone who saw Erin Lee Carr’s Mommy Dead and Dearest, an excellently absorbing and horrifying documentary about the most famous recent case like this, is familiar with how nasty and upsetting this problem becomes. But Chaganty’s more inspired by thrillers of the Hollywood persuasion, and approaches the dilemma as a crushing escape room for our young heroine to explore and attempt to flee. The actresses expertly bring the emotional underpinnings as messy subtext to the film’s gripping situational suspense. It takes a tremendously potent psychological problem and views it exclusively from the view point of the young girl who slowly comes to realize what her mother is doing to her, and then must piece together a plan to shake off her isolation and deprivation to freedom.

The film methodically reveals her obstacles and watches her throw herself against them. It boils its complicated emotional terrain down to its pure imperative: run. Chaganty sets the film at a methodical yet quick pace, flying through patient setup and efficiently tightening the suspense to maximum tautness with each new escalation. Each step gives us a new question. How does the girl maneuver her wheelchair from one place to the next? How does she research the pills without her mother noticing? How does she get out of a locked second-story bedroom? How does she get a passerby’s attention? It goes on like this, each sequence answering a new complication in clever ways. And Chaganty’s filmmaking, freed from the screen gimmick that sunk his otherwise promising sub-Unfriended debut Searching, here is pure and simple style—you could look at it with the sound off and know it was put together by someone who knows where to put the camera, how to cut around legibly to sustain the sense of suspense in a space, how to push in to capture an emotion or pull back and avoid over-emphasizing a dramatic decision. It’s confident, edge-of-the-seat stuff built out of how tricky and personal the stakes are every step of the way.

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