13 June 2024

Sundance Film Festival 2023 Review – Run, Rabbit, Run (2023)

In case you’re wondering, a white rabbit signifies a life transformation or new adventures/new experiences. The one in Run, Rabbit, Run has more sinister overtones – a change in life, certainly, but not necessarily a positive one in this atmospheric Australian chiller. Yet, as the film moves towards its inevitable conclusion, he becomes increasingly superfluous.

Sarah (Sarah Snook) is a fertility doctor, divorced from her husband (Damon Herriman) and living with their young daughter, Mia (Lily Latorre). They’re about to celebrate the girl’s seventh birthday when her behaviour starts to change inexplicably. The equally mysterious arrival of a large white rabbit in their house coincides with her tantrums, repeated questions about her grandmother and increasing distance from her mother. It all increasingly reminds Sarah of her past and a visit to her own estranged mother (Greta Scacchi), followed by a return to the family home, brings things to a distressing head.

Secrets, lies, grief and guilt come together as the foundation of the storyline, one that’s more ghostly thriller than horror. So many questions are thrown up in the first half hour that you’ll need a checklist later on to make sure they’re all resolved. The all-pervasive atmosphere of gloom and foreboding dominates right from the outset, but never reaches skin-prickling heights, yet it’s effective at creating the discomfort that goes hand in hand with what is, at its core, close to being a ghost story. How much of what we see is in Sarah’s increasingly fraught mind and how much is reality is never wholly clear, but that just adds to the feeling of her well-ordered life becoming increasingly off-kilter.

Right from the start, she’s struggling to cope with grief after the death of her father, but for years she’s also been haunted by a dark secret, spinning lies to conceal it and removing herself from her mother in an attempt to put those memories in the past. She has a strong belief in the circle of life and, as the film comes to its climax, it’s clear it’s coming true for her on the most personal of levels. Snook is impressive in conveying all the panic and distress of her character, culminating in a chilling moment where we watch her silent screams of anguish from the other side of a window. But we don’t see nearly enough of Damon Herriman’s ex-husband, who only appears in two scenes and vanishes again without explanation. Because of some strange editing choices in the final third, it appears to reach its conclusion more than once, so that when it actually arrives, the story has outstayed its welcome. The rabbit, unsurprisingly, is long gone.

★★ 1/2

Thriller | Sundance Film Festival, premiered on 20 January 2023 | Dir. Daina Reid | Sarah Snook, Greta Scacchi, Damon Herriman, Lily Latorre.

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