×

Tribeca Film Review: ‘Run’

Scottish writer-director Scott Graham's third feature is a Springsteen-inspired ode to small-town despair, strongly anchored by Mark Stanley.

Director:
Scott Graham
With:
Mark Stanley, Amy Manson, Marli Siu, Anders Hayward, Scott Murray

1 hour 16 minutes

You expect one thing from a film that opens with a quote from Bruce Springsteen’s career-making 1975 anthem “Born to Run”: a road movie, one with escape and exploration on its mind, eventually bounding forward from the glum, gray town of its establishing shots. “Run,” the third feature from mood-mongering Scottish filmmaker Scott Graham, both delivers on that promise and deliberately kneecaps it: Charting 24 hours in the life of an angry, freedom-seeking factory worker and former boy racer, it’s a celebration of the open road that nonetheless hits the brakes at the city limits, engine idling with should-I-stay-or-should-I-go uncertainty. That’s the tension that powers “Run” through a bare-bones 76 minutes, as does a fine, tightly coiled performance from former “Game of Thrones” alum Mark Stanley — though the film, effective on its own unassuming terms, seems to cut out with some distance left to run.

After landing a BAFTA nomination in 2013 for his first feature “Shell,” an impressively poised miniature study in Highlands melancholy, Graham suffered a notable sophomore slump with his stilted, disjointed follow-up “Iona,” which received minimal distribution despite the rising star of leading lady Ruth Negga. Like “Shell,” “Run” has been adapted and expanded from one of Graham’s earlier shorts, and it finds him closer to the taut, textured form of his debut, notwithstanding the lean script’s odd lapse into cliché.

Some degree of familiarity, at least, is intended. As in the recent “Wild Rose,” the downbeat specificity of a working-class Scots milieu is used to refresh a story that is otherwise pure Americana, shot through with broken visions of an elusive great wide open. Springsteen, present everywhere from the soundtrack to the characters’ tattoos, is “Run’s” all-American totem.

Popular on Variety

The rain-washed desperation of Graham’s tarmac landscape comes from a personal place: The setting, the undistinguished port town of Fraserburgh, is where the director himself grew up, though if there’s any affection in his depiction of its squat fish factories and peeling leisure centers, it’s of a particularly stoic variety. Graham got out; 36-year-old Finnie (Stanley) thought he would too, and his younger years of breakneck street-racing along the docks were intended as mere dry runs for an eventual high-speed exit from Fraserburgh’s drab confines. Yet he’s still there, along with his teen-sweetheart-turned-wife Katie (Amy Manson) and their two restless, resentful sons, living out a meager life in a matchbox house. When Katie buys him a crisp “going-out” shirt as a gift, Finnie is brusquely befuddled: Where would they go out, anyway?

Meanwhile, their sullen eldest, Kid (Anders Hayward), is now reliving his father’s dead-end youth, gathering with friends at night to burn rubber down the same limited stretch of asphalt, and treating his pregnant girlfriend Kelly (the excellent Marli Siu) with gauche indifference. Finnie can see where it’s all leading, which is what reawakens his own urge to get the hell out of dodge; one evening, after a fractious family dinner, he impulsively grabs the keys to Kid’s car and heads out for a spin, picking up a bemused Kelly along the way.

The meat of the film is in this unlikely pairing of outgrown lad and the girl soon to bear his grandchild, who unexpectedly recognize their stunted hopes in each other. The crackle of understanding between them isn’t quite romantic, though it betrays what they’ve both been missing in their other, worn-out relationships. Stanley, who has the scarred, potent demeanor of a rugby-built Fassbender, and Siu — a rising talent who made off with every scene she had in last year’s oddball zombie musical “Anna and the Apocalypse” — play their characters’ mutual hunger with terse tenderness, as cinematographer Simon Tindall electrifies the dark car interior with reflected, oily neons. For a short, gasoline-fed spell, they feel like the only people in the world.

That they don’t know what to do with this fleeting bond is poignant, though eventually “Run” seems likewise uncertain of its direction. A somewhat rushed finale brings new perspective and possibilities in the clear light of day, though the film’s short timeframe leads one to wonder if Finnie’s nighttime explosion of angst is simply cyclical — call it road rage of a more interior sort — and doomed to repetition. There’s a reason British cinema doesn’t share Hollywood’s rich road-movie tradition: It only takes a few hours’ driving before you’ve reached the other end of the island. If “Run,” with its big American dreams and small Scottish scope, is finally frustrated by those limitations, that is at least partly the point.

Tribeca Film Review: 'Run'

Reviewed at Soho Screening Rooms, London, April 17, 2019. (In Tribeca Film Festival — International Narrative Competition.) Running time: 76 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A BBC Films, Creative Scotland, British Film Institute presentation of a Bard Entertainments production in co-production with Barry Crerar. (International sales: Film Constellation, London.) Producers: Margaret Matheson, Ciara Barry, Rosie Crerar. Executive producers: Lizzie Francke, Rose Garnett, Robbi Allen, Ross McKenzie.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Scott Graham. Camera (color, widescreen): Simon Tindall. Editor: David Arthur.

With: Mark Stanley, Amy Manson, Marli Siu, Anders Hayward, Scott Murray

More Film

  • Running on Empty

    Berlin: Lisa Weber on Empathy and Courage in Her Panorama Doc 'Running on Empty'

    Nineteen-year-old Claudia lives with her mother, brother and four-year-old son in a public housing complex in Vienna, with no job, no prospects on the horizon, and the present slipping by in a series of uneventful days. But in “Running on Empty,” which premiered Feb. 25 in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, director Lisa [...]

  • Evgenia Markova

    Berlin: New Roskino CEO Evgenia Markova Moves to Boost Russian Film Biz

    With relations between Russia and the U.S. growing frostier amid renewed allegations of election interference by Moscow ahead of the 2020 presidential polls, the new head of Russian movie support agency Roskino is banking on a thaw, as the country unveils a host of measures to lure foreign productions and boost the growing Russian film [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Rob Schneider To Star in and Direct Spanish-Language Comedy ‘Amor es Amor’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BERLIN — Teaming two of the most energetic players on the new Spanish-language content scene, El Estudio and Infinity Hill are teaming to produce “Amor es Amor,” Rob Schneider’s Spanish-language movie debut as both an actor and director. A comedy, “Amor es Amor” turns on Enrique Juarez, an up-and-coming Mexican telenovela actor on the verge [...]

  • Pari

    Berlin: Siamak Etemadi on Finding His Path in Panorama Player 'Pari'

    Stunned to discover that her son has vanished while studying abroad in Athens, an Iranian woman sets off on a desperate search across the Greek capital to find him. Navigating a foreign and forbidding landscape, she’s forced to also travel deep within herself, uncovering buried truths and offering a chance for her own reinvention. “Pari” [...]

  • Cocoon of Stone

    Japan’s Wowow Makes Move Into Theatrical Releasing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Japanese pay-TV leader Wowow is to expand into theatrical releasing. The company made its theatrical buying debut this week at the Berlin Film Festival’s accompanying European Film Market. With linear channels and a movie-driven on-demand service, Wowow is already one of the leading consumers of movie content in Japan, and boasts 2.8 million subscribers. These [...]

  • Stormtroopers'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' film

    What Disney’s CEO Shake-Up Means for Its Movie Business

    After rocking a quiet Tuesday afternoon with news of leadership changes at the very top of the Walt Disney Corporation, attention has turned to respective divisions at the Hollywood superpower — and to what the side-stepping of Bob Iger and ascension of new CEO Bob Chapek might mean for the future. This includes Disney’s Goliath [...]

  • Jeremy Renner

    John Ottman Hosts Jeremy Renner, Michael Keaton, More at 'Aiding Australia' Benefit

    Film editor and composer John Ottman, who won an Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 2019, hosted members of the film, television and music communities at the “Aiding Australia” charity dinner and concert held at his West Hollywood home on Sunday evening (Feb. 23). The benefit raised funds to help in the recovery of fire-ravaged Australia, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content