A quick and nasty little mother-daughter thriller on Hulu
How good is Sarah Paulson? So good that even when a movie telegraphs exactly what’s about to go down, you still want to follow her there. Hulu’s Run, a quick and nasty little thriller, won’t blow you away with its subtlety, but it’s a satisfying shot of adrenaline and a nice diversion from the torrent of brainless holiday movies, not that there’s anything wrong with those.
Also, this is one of the few times an actor who uses a wheelchair actually plays a character in a wheelchair: Kiera Allen makes her feature film debut as Paulson’s daughter.
Run is a mostly-two-person drama about a homeschooled high schooler with a long list of diseases, who begins to suspect her doting mother isn’t being straight with her. She finds one small thread of suspicion to tug on, and we’re off.
Run hails from a long tradition of domestic-hostage thrillers, a genre introduced to many of us Gen Xers when we read Flowers in the Attic way too young. More recently, there’ve been impressive monster-mothers in the series Sharp Objects (2018) and The Act (2019), but neither character is as overtly bananas as Paulson’s Diane. At a tidy 90 minutes, this film knows we don’t need to waste our time wondering, is she or isn’t she?
Allen’s sickly Chloe is going about her day when she discovers that one of the many prescriptions she takes is in her mother’s name instead of her own. Shaken, she begins to look for other clues that something isn’t right. She doesn’t have to look hard.
I love a kinetic thriller where the plot accelerates early on and doesn’t let up. Sketch those characters broadly and let’s get to the action! Director Aneesh Chaganty (Searching) keeps throwing obstacles and twists at Chloe as she tries to get answers, and then rescue. One of her many maladies, asthma, kicks up at inopportune moments, and Allen’s labored gasping had me feeling short of breath myself.
Allen and Paulson are terrific together. Paulson is very much in her comfort zone as a mom from hell (not to be confused with her nurse from hell origin story on Ratched). She infuses Diane with a lonely, haunted, chilling psyche. Allen plays Chloe as relentlessly resourceful, a character who never falls into damsel-in-distress territory. The fact of her being in a wheelchair adds some stressful roadblocks in her bid for escape, but the film also fundamentally depicts it as a very mundane part of her life. Hers is maybe the most arresting wheelchair-actor performance since Ali Stroker crushed Broadway in last year’s Oklahoma!
I also got a Rosemary’s Baby vibe from Chloe’s thwarted attempts at escape. Nothing like well-meaning strangers siding with your maniac mom as she explains that your new medication is giving you delusional side effects. Chaganty effectively conveys that nightmarish sense of screaming out loud and having no one hear you. And, in Chloe’s case, of having to literally drag yourself to freedom because there isn’t anyone coming to help.
Still, I think it’s best to watch Run after a couple of spiked eggnogs. Too much scrutiny will turn up a lot of plot holes, and who needs those?
You might be tempted to wonder why this incredibly smart, together senior knows no one in the world except her own mother and the mailman. Or how a teenager who seems to be an electrical engineering genius hasn’t ever used the Internet or a smartphone. Also, why can’t Chloe think of any pharmacy in the world to call with her toxicology questions, other than the one her mother regularly goes to? And why–as in so many cheesy psychodramas–does the villain insist on holding onto incriminating news clippings about her misdeeds?
Anyway, I highly recommend checking it out. As long as you don’t feel the need, like Chloe, to ask too many pesky questions.