Sunday, 11 April 2021

Creepy thriller of parental abuse makes one want to ‘Run’



‘RUN’ ON HULU

What could not have been a coincidence, “Run” was produced to be a theatrical release for Mother’s Day weekend.

That’s a bit of cruel irony once the dysfunctional dynamic of a mother-daughter relationship is fully revealed.

A few films come to mind that involve an abusive and manipulative mother, but none probably more prominent in the zeitgeist than Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest,” a disturbing look at the mistreatment of her adopted daughter in a movie almost four decades ago old.

Fresh in the public’s mind from her role in “Ratched,” Sarah Paulson’s Diane Sherman has entered into the sweepstakes for an equally cruel and controlling mother caring for her homebound teen daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen).

If the Nurse Ratched role in the Netflix series didn’t solidify Paulson’s adept performance of an unhinged caregiver, then “Run” should seal the deal for one depraved enough to win the Munchausen by proxy lottery.

In the opening scene, Diane is giving birth to a premature baby clinging to life in the hospital. The screen goes black to list definitions of asthma, diabetes, paralysis and even the rare disorder of hemochromatosis.

Jumping to the present day, Chloe is a high school senior being homeschooled by her mother, who has apparently spent the last 17 years in full-time care of a child who can only move about in a wheelchair.

Chloe’s daily routine never varies. Pulling herself out of bed in the morning into the wheelchair, Chloe gobbles more pills than a seriously ill senior citizen, tosses up phlegm in the toilet and rubs ointment on body rashes. Other treatments follow throughout the day.

Schoolwork may involve 90 minutes of physics, followed by less time with literature since Chloe has already read many chapters. She’s obviously smart and eagerly waiting to hear about college applications.

Living in rural Washington brings little interaction with the outside world. In fact, the sprawling two-story home, with a vegetable garden that Diane tends to every day, is so isolated that there are no neighbors within shouting distance.

The daily arrival of the mailman has Chloe rushing to the door to see if any acceptance letter has come from the University of Washington or another college. Somehow, Mom always reaches the mail first, assuring Chloe she’d be the one to open any letters from a school.

Odd happenings start to creep into the picture, such as Chloe finding a new prescription in her mother’s name but the mystery green and white pills turn out to be a new medication that she’s taking.

Growing suspicion that festers in Chloe’s mind leads to a cat-and-mouse game where her investigation into the pills is thwarted by the only computer in the house having no Internet connection.

As a matter of fact, Chloe may be the only teenager in the entire Pacific Northwest without a cell phone and access to social media, which obviously thwarts an inquiring mind to break free of a mental and physical prison.

When Chloe convinces her mom that they should go see a movie, she slips out of the theater on the pretext of a bathroom visit in order to go across the street to the pharmacy, hoping to determine what ailment is addressed by the mysterious new medication.

Meanwhile, later at night, Mom usually spends time in the basement with a bottle of wine watching old home movies of her child while secrets are stored in boxes and desk drawers that are inaccessible to Chloe.

As tension starts to build between a suspicious daughter and an overprotective, scheming mother, the madness of Diane turns ugly with incidents that would warrant the attention of the authorities.

There is no intention here to spoil any of the twists and turns of extreme behaviors that are threatening and dangerous or the secrets unearthed that cast a whole new perspective on the psychosis at hand.

Kiera Allen, a wheelchair user in real life, brings authenticity to the role as a disabled person. But more than that, Allen is genuine as a bright teenager ably coping with her own challenges.

On the occasion of being trapped in her bedroom, Chloe seeks escape by dragging her body across the roof of her house in a thrilling moment that demonstrates her resourcefulness and resolve.

Sarah Paulson’s Diane is a terrific character study of someone with a tenuous grasp on reality in spite of a seemingly caring façade that slowly boils into a frightful meltdown.

In the serviceable running time of approximately 90 minutes, “Run” is long enough to wholly establish the enormously villainous nature of an abusive parent and short enough not to wear out its welcome as a thriller.

Viewing “Run” on a theatrical big screen as originally intended would have been added bonus, but since the dreadful pandemic has limited our options, thankfully Hulu stepped into the breach to offer a rousing original film.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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