At this strange time, it seems de rigueur to describe the United Kingdom as a nation divided. It might be more accurate to describe it, not as one, single country torn apart by political strife and socio-economic inequality, but rather as several completely separate nations existing in parallel with each other. The portrayal of proto-Britishness in ever-present pillars of the movie landscape – Four Weddings and the like – means nothing to vast swathes of the Isles.
It’s reassuring, then, to see articulated a vision of Britain which takes a long, welcome, step away from middle class, Home Counties frivolity and presents something infinitely more recognisable to anyone not in possession of a title and a second home.
Scott Graham’s Run opens with a Springsteen lyric: “Baby this town rips the bones from your back, It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap.” It might have been written by a blue-collar East Coast American, but the sentiment is universal. Run seems to mark itself as a polemic on modern Britain from the get-go, but it’s also a meditation on masculinity and imperfect family. The limitations present in its protagonist’s life seem to manifest themselves internally as much as they are imposed by the dead-end, knackered town in which he lives.
It’s a windblown, Scottish seaside town; unremarkable, with nothing for its leading man, 30-something Finnie (Mark Stanley), to do except go to work gutting fish in the local factory. His evenings are a kind of domestic limbo of corner shop wine and the odd bit of emasculation at the expense of his uncomfortably old teenage son; a reminder of a youthful transgression and now a millstone with a better car than him.
Run finds respite from the malaise in the night-time world of illegal street racing, before flirting with the mad love sensibilities of Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands True Romance, etc. It’s a flight of spirit that’s a slice of pure rebellious Americana as much as any Springsteen tune. But it’s flavoured with typically British seasoning as races fly past derelict industrial estates and kebab shop punch-ups.
A sombre, dreamy aesthetic cuts through the drudgery and gives the whole thing a bittersweet note of melancholy. It’s a punchy, ballsy story that never finds itself caught in a trap of working class machismo cliche. It might be a death trap, but it’s a reminder that there is life there. In a Britain that is too often ignored.
Drama | UK, 2019 | 15 | DVD, Digital HD | Verve Pictures | 25th May 2020 (UK) | Dir.Scott Graham | Mark Stanley, Amy Manson, Marli Siu, Anders Hayward