Run is an artful and tightly-crafted slice of life tracking 24-hours in the life of the British working class; an urge for freedom and a sense of familial responsibility are at odds, a source of tension in the difficult economic landscape of Thatcher’s Britain.
The film opens with a quote from Springsteen’s anthem, ‘Born to Run’: “this town rips the bones from your back / It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap”. These words prophesise the meaning of the film’s title, Run, as both literal and metaphorical – Finnie’s joyrides and nighttime races in his son’s sports car take him away from his responsibilities physically but also emotionally, back to a raw and risky adolescence in a film profoundly haunted by a yearning for lost youth.
Finnie (Mark Stanley) works in a fish-packing plant in Fraserburgh, presented here as Scotland’s answer to small-town drabness: when it isn’t night, the sky is constantly overcast as we coast through council estates and speed along concrete dual carriageways. When Finnie’s son is asked, “Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?” he answers, “I don’t see that far ahead”. With a young family of his own to provide for, Finnie is stuck watching his eldest son make what we assume to be the same mistakes he once did.
The bulk of Run is a dialogue between Finnie and Kelly (Marli Siu), his son’s pregnant ex-girlfriend, who accompanies him on his nighttime joyride for a long, life-changing and meaningful conversation. The two prove excellent foils for one another – Finnie is painfully, tragically inarticulate in a way that many men fatally are, whereas Kelly is both animated and chatty, bright-eyed and terrified. Their conversation, like much of the film, is beautifully observed, with characters as delicate and human as they are uncertain. The inter-generational dynamic and tensions are keenly felt between the characters, in such a way that our protagonist feels achingly out of time.
There’s a melding of the film’s “real life” action and non-diegetic signs that is meant to telegraph meaning and emotion to the viewer. Kelly plays Ray Morris and 80’s tunes in the car, and as those songs transition from being played out of her phone to being the film’s soundtrack, we come to feel that our protagonist is reaching, clawing for something he doesn’t have anymore, a nostalgia for someone else’s childhood.
Run therefore manages to strike a delicate balance between Real Life and the artfully or artificially poetic. There are song cues, funny cuts between scenes and mirrors of lines here and there that stretch believability, but writer-director Scott Graham weaves them with subtlety, allowing the film to feel very true.
It’s intense when tempers are flared and violence is shocking when it comes, and the cars elicit a powerful mix of emotions as the speedometer climbs and the rain-damp tarmac glistens in the first race. But it’s also tender in its observation of the things we owe to each other, and bittersweet in its climax, which blends regret and hope. Run is beautiful and messy, and a film to be savoured.