Updated: Mar 3, 2022
A woman’s run takes a dark turn.
Films such as this are the kind of films that you wish were not relevant or timely. Sadly, this deeply unsettling commentary on a horrifying truth of our current world conveys a lived reality that not only deserves but demands our attention.
Niamh Algar, best known for her role as Sue on the HBO Max sci-fi/fantasy show Raised By Wolves, carries this stomach-knot-inducing tale of a young woman heading out for a daytime run. Writer and director Ruth Greenberg expertly sets an anxious tone, removing all dialogue and replacing it with sharp and loud diegetic sounds of the simple and mundane; the rip of Velcro, the rough pull of a shoelace and the constant tapping of a radiator. Opening the film with an almost sensory overload of the most benign and commonplace things clues us in to the heightened sense of awareness that our protagonist is going to need. In case the point needs to be underlined, we are given a long shot of Algar on the outside of her front door, silhouetted, isolated and still. She stands alone contemplating the danger she may be about to step into before pulling the door shut behind her and starting her run.
With not a word of dialogue spoken and the realisation that the only thing that has happened so far is that a young woman has gotten dressed for a run and then left the house, the reality of this woman, of so many women, hits us like a sledgehammer. For many young women, assuming that the ordinary is not masking something dangerous is a luxury.
The style Greenberg applies to communicate the runner’s state of mind with no substantial dialogue is arresting to say the least. Using diegetic music to reflect the confidence that the runner is trying to project to mask the inner anxiety is a great touch. This is highlighted further still by the moments that the runner cuts the music off, allowing her to be more aware of a perceived threat and communicating to us that the assisted sense of confidence must now give way to preparedness. In essence, silence equals danger.
So much of where this film shines lies in an incredible sound mix working in tandem with an edit that expertly uses frantic cuts to signify perceived threats, making the loose cuts that much more unnerving when the real threat presents itself. Similarly, Greenberg’s collaboration with DP Molly Manning Walker knows just when to give us those handheld close ups and the perfectly framed cinematic landscapes, using an impressive array of visual and audio storytelling to maximise the constant tension of Algar’s runner and the perfect revelation of the actual threat when it presents itself.
While we have highlighted the impact of the lack of dialogue throughout the film, this method could have run the risk of becoming a liability to the film if not for the performance of Algar herself. As with the best performances, Algar uses the most subtle of gestures, looks or pauses that communicate her state of mind with all the volume and so much more of the impact of any dramatic monologue. She expertly pairs her inner strength with her outward vulnerability to give us a character to invest in. Ultimately, Algar’s ability to silently carry a moment with gesture and action goes a long way to helping us engage with a fully-formed person. Additionally, the genius of Greenberg to give her no backstory and very little to say communicates the universality of the experience depicted in the film. This is especially important for those of us who do not live with the constant fear and trepidation of Algar’s runner, an experience sadly shared by so many women.
Run is a heart-breakingly visceral short film. It forces us to open our eyes to the actions and attitudes of our society, in the hope that one day violence against women need not be as commonplace as going out for a simple jog.
Studio: Gingerbread Pictures/BFI/Wild Swim Films | Year: 2021 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 12 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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