3 out of 5

Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty

I don’t know if ‘ironic’ is the right term for Aneesh Chaganty’s 2020 film, Run, premiering on Hulu, given that the streaming platform was home to an 8-part TV series with the exact same premise, but whatever the term is, if you’ve seen the latter – which is based on a true story – you’ll likely be a bit dismissive of Run’s premise, which focuses on the home-schooled, wheelchair-bound Chloe (Kiera Allen), closely cared for by her mother (Sarah Paulson), at a point in time when Chloe is starting to question some of her mom’s choices…

That’s a little less involving than it may sound, but I’ll leave the main gist blank in case you haven’t seen that other series. You’ll likely get the picture soon enough, with the mother / daughter’s remote living, and the line of medications Diana – Paulson – has Chloe taking, and the tamped down use of cellphones, phone, and internet; while Chloe is, to her knowledge, living a good life, the lack of replies she receives about the colleges to which she’s applied lends itself to a restless state that casts a new light on these limitations.

Aneesh Chaganty’s control of this is pretty fantastic, making the house in which most of the film takes place feel fully realized – you know where the bedroom is; where the kitchen is; and so on – perfectly connecting us with Chloe’s small world, and thereby able to up the tension when it starts to become smaller and smaller. Allen is also incredibly brave in her role, putting herself in a lot of non-glamorous spots – and that’s not a knock on being wheelchair-bound, but rather that her character is, by nature of the flick, intelligent but also clueless of the world outside her home, and trying to push herself beyond that doesn’t always mean looking like a hero – and, more importantly, fully convincing us of her dawning realizations and wordless glances around the home to put the pieces together. Similarly, Paulson, who I was afraid might be stuck in permanent camp mode after working so much with Ryan Murphy, is everything she needs to be as Diana, giving the character a personality and depth beyond her scripted motivations.

I’d circle back around to Chaganty for creating an environment in which these skills help buoy the flick, which is otherwise a pretty straight-forward – if well-handled – thriller. One of the downsides of handling the core idea as a 90 minute movie versus an 8 hour TV show is that a lot of the plotting is, necessarily, rushed by comparison; Allen and Paulson, as mentioned, help smooth this, but nonetheless, the twists in the story happen rather early on, lending an inevitability to things, and also preventing – beyond some casual dialogue mentions – digging in to the “how” of this scenario effectively. And there’s a further plus / minus: this being fiction versus that other show’s fact, there’s no need to play it safe, and Run can go full on genre in its latter half. This provides for some incredibly tense and smart cat-and-mouse stuff, though depending on what you wanted from the flick, it also means it starts broaching more on the unbelievable.

Definite entertainment, and another feather in the cap for Chaganty, who’s proving to be capable of delivering intelligent, low-key thrillers – which is nice in an age of billion dollar blockbusters. (Or during quarantine.)