Motherhood is such a revered thing in our society – so much so that we created a whole day to celebrate mothers. Yes, there is a Father’s day too, but it always strikes me as a quieter affair, and doesn’t quite have the expectation that Mother’s day imposes. We are lectured to cherish this woman who birthed us, nursed us, loved us, because without them, we wouldn’t even be alive.
Yet, there seems to be blinders on when it comes to the fact that motherhood is a far from natural thing. None of it is instinctive – you have to learn, adapt, change who you are to fit what your child needs, so much so that you lose who you were before. And then, after you have spent years shaping your identity around your children, they grow up and leave, and you are told to accept this and move on. It is part and parcel of life, yes, but none of it is easy, and this is what makes Aneesh Chaganty’s Run particularly effective.
Sarah Paulson plays Diane Sherman, who has spent years caring for her daughter Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen), who has a host of medical problems. Their home is furnished for Chloe’s needs, Diane prepares her meals and controls her diet and medication, and Chloe is homeschooled, so Diane handles her education as well. Diane is used to the status quo, but Chloe desires change and looks out eagerly for the mail everyday, hoping to receive an acceptance letter from the college of her dreams.
Diane is a picture-perfect portrait of a mother, ever attentive to Chloe’s needs, nurturing her intellectual curiosity, but then, it hits the viewer just how much control she has over Chloe’s life. The girl has no phone, no social life outside her mother, internet usage is heavily monitored, moreover, she is wheel-chair bound, which restricts her even further. Chaganty quietly builds the image of Chloe’s isolated life, and then amps up the tension and horror. When I say the movie kept me on the edge of my seat, I don’t even mean in a figurative way, because I was leaning forward so much that one slip would leave me crashing face-first into the screen.
Kiera Allen is magnificent to watch on screen; her character starts from a place of slight curiosity that blossoms into sheer terror that her own mother could harm her in such a way. Chaganty and Sev Ohanian’s script does not make it easy for Chloe to escape her mother, with credible obstacles presented along the way, and we admire Chloe’s grit and determination for agency over her own life. Paulson’s Diane is such a compelling character, so earnest in her proclamations of wanting to protect her daughter, so zealously blind in seeing that she herself is the problem.
The film is perfectly paced and edited, the thrills leading to darker revelations and truths, and just like on a rollercoaster, when you think the heart-racing parts are over, Chaganty still finds a way to sucker punch you with more twists. It’s good to see that there is no sophomore slump for Chaganty here, who has delivered a competent thriller once again. I look forward to seeing what else the talented filmmaker has up his sleeve for the future.
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Aneesh Chaganty's Run is heart-racing stuff; every moment an arrhythmic skip, before the thrills build to a paralysing finish.
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