Run. Review. The Representation/Authenticity Question

In 2018 director Aneesh Chaganty burst onto this critics watch list of talents worth keeping an eye on thanks to his debut feature Searching. This was easily the best in the brief trend of movies taking place entirely from the perspective of various modern technology. Chaganty was able to compose a compelling thriller using the technology construct as a way to enhance the tension and story. This is in direct contrast to something like Unfriended. In that case, producers saw the dollar signs and ability to attract an audience with its central gimmick. The highlight of searching was a stunning opening sequence. This shows heavy influence from Pixar’s Up but there is an art to still being able to execute similar ideas effectively. This critic was looking forward to seeing what Chaganty would do next.

During the pandemic, his second feature Run was released on Hulu As a wheelchair-using critic with cerebral palsy, the fact the film featured 100% genuine representation from wheelchair user and relative newcomer Kiera Allen did not go unnoticed. This viewer has always held the opinion that what the filmmaker decides to do with the portrait on-screen is the key element

There was a disability sex comedy released in 2019 titled Come As You Are. It was entirely inauthentic from a representation perspective. This will disqualify it in the eyes of a large chunk of activist culture. The actual film did offer a relatively solid examination of the sense of achievement that one feels when able to travel independently with a disability. This theme is entirely relying on the screenplays devilry. Any of the actors on-screen having a genuine disability is irrelevant. The final product is not especially worth recommending. It’s entertaining enough but symptomatic of the very forgettable fodder found on streaming. That said it’s not the crime against disability that some who look for that look for authentic representation above everything else will claim. This critic was interested to see how Chaganty and his team would handle the disability angle of the narrative. A one to one representation relationship between actor and character was not an automatic point in the film’s favour.
Run stars, Sarah Paulson, as the mother to a disabled wheelchair-using daughter. As the narrative begins it looks like the two are planning for the next stage of the latter’s independence. The daughter quickly realises this is not the case. Things play out As a fairly typical above average but not a world-changing thriller. Discerning audiences will know exactly where the film is going from 15 minutes in. That said even with story beats as predictable there is is an art to executing them solidly. Run is a testament to that. It’s engrossing throughout even It brings nothing new to the table from a genre perspective. It won’t change any viewers life or trouble any major year-end lists. However, for a quick and welcome injection of engaging cinematic thrills, viewers could do a lot worse.

How’s the representation element. Regardless of the colouration between disability of actor and character, it’s one of the most honest showcases of disability this critic has seen on screen. Scenes involving the daughter going about her daily activities show adoptions as a regular element of everyday life. The characters functional limitations are used as an effective means for creating tension without painting her as any less capable from a personal perspective. The narrative uses the fact that those in wheelchairs will be more innately recognisable to their local community as a specific plot point in an effective manner. This style of honesty is decidedly worth seeing on screen. Not inspiration porn but instead focusing on the everyday life of a wheelchair user. Seeing how this would be implemented within the narrative structure a fairly straight forward chase thriller.

When boiled down to its essentials it’s nothing more than a thriller inflected take on the premise of This Is Us (with one child instead of three.)Replace Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia’s wholesome parental figures with psychopathic Sarah Paulson and you’re off to the races. Regardless of the representation angle, this is a straight forward but well constructed 90 minutes. Worth checking out if viewers like this style of narrative
Run will be framed by a certain strain of disability activist as a hugely important moment within representation. When looked at a certain way it is. That said beyond this specific angle it’s very much a solidly constructed potboiler led by two excellent performances. iI has been made by a promising filmmaker who seems to understand how to showcase authentic representation without it seeming like it’s been made for an able-bodied audience. This is a point in the film’s favour but it’s not will be-all and end-all. Certain activist audiences may see The final product is ultimately a lot more impactful than it actually is.

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