In helmer Steph Green’s debut feature, “Run and Jump,” a family must adjust to life with father — specifically, a father who has suffered brain damage from a stroke, and who returns home with a camera-toting medical researcher in tow. The wife of the stroke victim — an extraordinarily vibrant, red-haired mother of two and a warm, coaxing hostess to the uptight researcher — helps the household accommodate the strangers in its midst. Skirting traumatic turmoil, “Run” discovers reserves of strength and joie de vivre that could prove irresistible to European and American auds.
The pic begins in medias res with Venetia (Maxine Peake) picking up her husband, Connor (Edward MacLiam), from the hospital where he spent a month in a coma and four months in recovery, and then collecting Ted Fielding (Will Forte), the American psychologist who will become the family’s houseguest and record Connor’s progress through the lens of his camera.
Connor’s medial frontal lobe damage immediately makes itself felt in myriad unsubtle ways. The formerly skilled carpenter withdraws into a solipsistic state, totally absorbed in producing endless impractical wooden spheres instead of the well-crafted furniture he used to sell. He ignores his wife and children and fashions a wooden fork and spoon with which to touch people and things, thereby avoiding personal contact.
Movingly, helmer Green and co-scripter Aibhe Keogan carefully dole out odd moments that briefly illuminate Connor’s prior existence as a vital, responsive man, seen in quick flashbacks from Venetia’s perspective or in moments of reconnection in the present day.
But Connor is not alone in his slow emergence from isolation. Ted, at first keeping a fastidious distance from Venetia and the children (a young girl and a teenage boy), soon finds himself drawn in, lured out of hiding by Venetia’s vivacity as they share marijuana, a bike ride in the rain and even a kiss — as romance, hesitant and ambiguous at first, unexpectedly blossoms. Ted also takes an interest in the kids’ activities and starts to take over as male head of the house; troubling questions of loyalty and commitment multiply as Ted becomes the go-to guy for everyone, including Connor, much to the consternation of friends and in-laws.
But these conflicts also serve as enrichments, expanding the inner circle to include a compensatory member. With remarkable warmth and immediacy, Green and co-scripter Keogan have managed to capture the beauty of an obviously flawed family, one neither too perfect nor too demographically balanced to ring true, and imbue it with a sense of plenitude that seems to flow as much from the sun-drenched land itself as from the quirkily particular personalities involved.
Green and lenser Kevin Richey sometimes employ a handheld camera to suggest Connor’s disorientation and the buoyant Venetia’s whirlwind energy as, bathed in light, she bustles about to avoid thinking too much.
Run and Jump
A Samson Films, Bavaria Pictures production in co-production with Senator Films Munchen. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles.) Produced by Tamara Anghie, Martina Niland. Executive producers, David Collins, Matthias Esche, Jan S. Kaiser. Co-producers, Astrid Kahmke, Philipp Kreuzer, Helge Sasse.
Directed by Steph Green. Screenplay, Aibhe Keogan, Steph Green. Camera (color, 35mm/HD), Kevin Richey; editor, Nathan Nugent; music, Sebastian Pille; production designer, Stephen Daly; costume designer, Kathy Strachan; sound (Dolby SR), Barry O’Sullivan; supervising sound editor, Christoph von Schonburg; sound designers, Philipp Sellier, von Schonburg; re-recording mixer, Benjamin Rosenkind.
Cast: Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam. Will Forte, Ciara Gallagher, Brendan Morris, Sharon Horgan.