Aneesh Chaganty’s new thriller for Hulu, Run, is taut, suspenseful, and unexpectedly tragic thanks to the lead performances.

Based on the trailers for Run, you may find that the Aneesh Chaganty’s movie is reminiscent of the Dee Dee Blanchard case where Dee Dee, the mother, convinced her daughter Gypsy Rose, that she was suffering from a variety of illnesses that were in fact being caused by Dee Dee (aka Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy). While that element exists in Run, Chaganty has cleverly twisted it into an escape thriller while never playing those events as exploitative (it helps that the Blanchard case has already been told in the documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest and the Hulu drama series The Act). Run plays like a thriller with an incredibly sad undertone as both mother and daughter are trapped by psychosis with Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen hammering home the emotional stakes of this bizarre and tragic dynamic.

Chloe Sherman (Allen) suffers from a variety of illnesses including diabetes, arrythmia, asthma, and partial paralysis. Her world revolves around her mother Diane (Paulson), but Chloe is eager to get out and start living her own life as she awaits an acceptance letter from college. However, as Chloe keeps looking for the acceptance letter, she starts to suspect that the medication and information that her mother provides her may not be what it appears. The illusion of her own illness shattered, Chloe fights to get away from her mother as she discovers that her “caretaker” may be the one who’s truly sick.

Image via Hulu

As Chaganty showed with his previous film Searching, he’s got strong control over tone and pacing, and those skills serve him well here as he’s able to keep the story tense without ever losing its overarching sense of loss and sadness. It’s unusual to marry the pacing of a thriller with melancholy, but Chaganty makes it work, and never gives us the easy out that Diane is some ugly monster even though her actions can be monstrous. By always putting the focus on the sadness of the character, we’re both terrified and yet oddly sympathetic towards the film’s antagonist.

Run is at its strongest when it leans into these emotional moments, but most of the movie is situational. A large part of the narrative is Chloe trying to learn some new information or escape outright and Diane trying to stop her. This leads to some interesting moments as the disabled Chloe is crawling along a rooftop or attempting to call up a pharmacy that doesn’t know her mother, but the dramatic pull of the film comes from the interactions between the characters rather than Chloe’s escape attempts, which are entertaining, but lack the emotional wallop of when Paulson and Allen are sharing the screen.

Image via Hulu

Chaganty has delivered not the typical thriller you’re expecting, and Run is all the better for it. Paulson and Allen are incredible, and they never sell the emotional stakes of the movie short even when the plotting starts getting dark and twisted. The surprising and captivating irony of Run is that thrillers tend to create a form of escapism, and the plot of the film is literally about trying to escape. However, the one thing Run can’t outrun is the overbearing sadness of a broken relationship built on lies.

Rating: B

Run arrives on Hulu on November 20th.

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