You can probably count the number of people who don’t like Bruce Springsteen on the fingers of one hand. OK, perhaps two. His appeal is universal, but his music is getting perilously close to being over-used in movies. Jim Cummings’ agonising Thunder Road centred on the song of the same name, while Blinded By The Light was Gurinder Chadha’s tribute to her musical hero. Now we have Run, with its smattering of songs from the man himself and a one word title that refers to one his most famous.
It’s a title that’s over-used in its own right, to the extent that finding out about the film online is trickier than it should be. Which doesn’t bode well for the originality of this north Scotland-set indie, which sees Mark Stanley back on the screen for the second time in consecutive weeks. He’s the 30+ Finnie, who got married young, has two sons and a dead end job at the fish processing factory in a small, run-down, coastal town, one that keeps the family’s financial heads above water. He hankers after his young and irresponsible days, when he used to race drag cars around the town’s streets, just like the teenagers – including his elder son – do now. He feels trapped and depressed – until one night he has the chance to re-live those younger glory days.
That atmosphere of the shabby little town, where there’s little to live for, is created with some authenticity and you can almost smell the fish in the factory. It’s a place where it’s easy to get stuck in a rut – exactly what’s happened to Finnie and his wife Katie (Amy Manson) – and where the young just sleepwalk into futures that offer them next to nothing. Queuing in the chip shop, drinking, getting into pointless fights and racing those cars are the norm. And, again, Stanley gives a good performance, although his attempt at a northern Scottish accent is painful at times. His scenes with Manson are full of the frustrations for both of them that go with coping with depression. She’s running out of ideas and so is he.
But the sad fact is that the film does as well. In creating a parallel between father and elder son – their mutual hatred of their jobs, their drag racing, their pregnant partners – it makes it clear that the boy’s life is destined to the follow the same pattern as his father’s, despite Finnie’s attempt to escape. And that’s where it hits a brick wall. It has nowhere else left to go, the ideas have dried up and we’re presented with an abrupt, facile ending that simply doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen. There’s almost a shrug of acceptance about it, resignation even, and you almost feel like reacting in the same way.
Its ideas and themes are worth exploring, but Run needs a clearer vision and a sharper focus on what it wants to say and how to say it. Its length is telling: too short for a feature but too long for a short, reinforcing that sense of a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. And, as it stands, it’s barely half way there.
Drama | 15 | Verve Pictures | UK, 13 March 2020 | Dir. Scott Graham | Mark Stanley, Amy Manson, Marli Siu, Anders Hayward