Aneesh Chaganty is destined for great things. The young Indian American director caught Google’s eye when he made the brief two-minute internet sensation Seeds. A few years later, he made his first feature film, the excellent Searching. Here, in Run, he’s made one of the best, most nerve-racking thrillers of the year.

The plot of the film is chilling. Things begin as Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) gives birth to a premature baby that needs emergency care. Fast forward 17 years, and Diane does everything for her daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen), who has special needs. Not only does Chloe need a wheelchair, but she has various illnesses such as arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, diabetes and paralysis.

Chloe hasn’t been held back by her challenges. Highly intelligent and tech-savvy, she hopes to start as a freshman at the University of Washington.

Meanwhile, Diane seems extremely overprotective. Some of this is understandable. However, Diane doesn’t even want Chloe to follow up on her university application, despite claiming that she wants her daughter to follow her dreams.

Aneesh Chaganty’s second feature film Run is a nail-biting psychological thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat

While still feeling anxious about her college applications, Chloe notices something suspicious about her medication. She notices that her pills are strangely labeled. She grows more curious when her mother asks her to take a new pill. When Chloe tries to research the pill on the internet, their home mysteriously loses connectivity.

Eventually, Chloe learns that the pill, Trigoxin, is indeed prescribed for heart conditions. However, the pill is green while Trigoxin is usually red.

Under the gaze of her overbearing mother, Chloe has little chance to investigate. One day, she sneaks out of the movie theatre, and moves across the street in her wheelchair to a pharmacy, where she learns the pill is designed for dogs and induces leg paralysis in humans. Before she can react, she’s hit with a sedative by her mother and wakes up locked inside her bedroom.

I’m sure you know where the rest of the film is going. But Run continues to surprise with plot twists, including one that I must confess I did not see coming. The film is beautifully shot and perfectly edited, driving up the suspense higher and higher until you’re on the edge of your seat.

Of course, if you stop to think about the plot of Run, then you’ll realise that some of it seems farfetched. What’s more, a few scenes feel contrived and a bit campy.

But as long as you can suspend your disbelief, Run is a nail-biter. The relatively simple narrative is very well directed by Aneesh Chaganty for maximum impact. In addition, the performances are simply outstanding.

Sarah Paulson is so good at playing psycho mom here that I’m sure some people will have nightmares. Meanwhile, Kiera Allen is a revelation in one of the best performances of the years. Being differently-abled, she gives the film plenty of authenticity, playing a character with special needs. When her character has to crawl across the floor without her wheelchair, you realise the struggle is real.

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, some violence, terror and language

Published in Dawn, ICON, December 20th, 2020

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