After the sleeper hit, Searching (2018), everyone seems to look forward to what Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian bring for their next story. The highly anticipated follow-up, Run—starring Sarah Paulson—was announced immediately after the release of Chaganty’s debut for a Mother’s Day release in May 2020. After some schedule amendment, this thriller eventually streams directly on Hulu. Look closely and you will find just how close Run thematically is with Searching, in which both exudes borderless parental love in nasty thrillers that could have gone out of hand in a matter of minutes.
Related Post: Review: Searching (2018)
In Run, Paulson is a loving yet obsessive mother, Diane Sherman, living a cautious and careful life with her disabled teenage girl, Chloe (Kiera Allen). From the start, we learn that the girl is bound to wheelchair since she was little, following chronic complication of arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, diabetes and paralysis (there’s a title card in the very beginning to explicitly explaining what those conditions are). For all she knows, Chloe is all homebound—homeschooled by her mother and barely sees the light of the day unless she’s going with the mother. Given her condition, it’s totally understandable how her mother would go full-metal protective to her. However, it won’t be long before Run breaks the routine and, apparently, breaks some brittle bones. Everything is hinted and foreshadowed, but who will run if one of the two characters that matter is on the wheelchair all the time?
Run works on the same algorithm as Searching. Internet plays an important role in both thrillers as a catalyst and distractor at the same time in the movies’ claustrophobic setting. While Chaganty’s first movie isn’t necessarily claustrophobic in a literal sense; the use of internet windows to confine the narrative into one limiting frame with limitless possibilities is the key. Run confines the character in a home that limits the mobility of its character, especially the wheelchair-bound protagonist. The conflict arises when Chloe, having been isolated for at least 17 years of her life, puts forward her interest to apply at University of Washington, only a few miles away from their home. She suspects, just like the audiences at this point, that her mother has been keeping a dire secret. Run doesn’t bother to conceal the hint, but it lets the audiences to play along with Chloe’s suspicion and covert sleuth operation.
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Run allows audiences to follow Chloe—collecting scarce information just as she does and putting together any clue to find any useful evidence of the secret she’s seeking. The detective play comes in handy with Will Merrick’s effective editing (the best element in Searching as well) that complements Chaganty and Ohanian’s careful script. The result is a mystery that plants perfect clues at perfect time, then allows Chloe to ponder for only a short period of time and, instead, keep her on the edge of her wheelchair. The unraveling of the mystery makes up for the lack of fresh idea to keep this thriller forward. At times, even at pivotal moments before the ending, it’s apparent that Run is built upon the same plot DNA with Chaganty’s first movie. This makes most part of the narrative completely predictable—which is barely ideal for a story that relies on mystery; but, that becomes forgivable with the filmmakers’ constant search for enticing pathways to get to the finale.
Another thing that distracts the attention from the usual flaws is the charming performance of its lead. Paulson has been enigmatic in the last few years with her long, fruitful collaboration with Ryan Murphy. It’s hard to tell if she’s becoming vulnerable or manipulative, yet, she’s managed to become both effortlessly. Newcomer, Allen—using wheelchair in real life—lives up to the authenticity she brings on screen. She’s granted the gift of imagination and she’s exuding it perfectly. Oftentimes, she will be the only character we see on screen and she carries the burden like a pro. With Paulson and Allen trading distrusts on screen with their respective charm, Run finds a way to overcome the lack thereof.