In June 2015, Dee Dee Blanchard was found in her bedroom in suburban Missouri, lying facedown on her bed in a pool of her blood. Her 23-year-old daughter, Gypsy Rose, who, it was believed at the time, suffered from a multitude of chronic illnesses that included muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, severe allergies and asthma, and was wheelchair bound, was gone. A few days later Gypsy was found at the Wisconsin family home of Nicholas Godejohn, a man she had met a few years earlier on a Christian dating site. The pair had murdered Dee Dee because, it emerged, Gypsy was never ill. For years, Dee Dee had been poisoning Gypsy with a variety of drugs she obtained from unsuspecting doctors, pharmacists and G-d knows who else. Dee Dee suffered from Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA), which is also known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSbP). (Is “suffered” the right word here when it’s the child who does the suffering?)
No doubt, the lurid story of Dee Dee and Gypsy was the jumping off point for director Aneesh Chaganty’s second film, RUN, which he co-wrote with Sev Ohanian. (The two had previously worked together on the 2018 film, SEARCHING, starring John Cho.) In RUN, Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson, GLASS; OCEAN’S EIGHT, BLUE JAY; CAROL; AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON) is a single mother who lives with her ailing 17-year-old daughter, Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen), in sleepy Pasco, Washington. Diane, a math teacher, has been home schooling Chloe all these years as the poor child deals with a range of illnesses that stemmed from her premature birth. Chloe, though, is upbeat about her life and she hopes she’ll be able to attend Washington State in the coming year. Unfortunately, the school hasn’t offered her admission even though her grades are excellent and she seems well-adjusted especially given her multiple conditions. The carefully managed façade that Diane has constructed over the years begins to crack open, however, when Chloe finds a prescription bottle of her medication with Diane’s name on it instead of her own.
RUN is wickedly engaging. To everyone in Pasco who knows her, Diane is a friendly, high-functioning mother who has dedicated her life’s work to caring for her daughter 24/7. Pretty amazing, when you think of it. Unlike other people who are characterized with FDIA, Diane doesn’t appear to be milking the system, nor does she go out of her way to garner attention or sympathy. She probably takes on just enough teaching work to maintain her qualifications and membership in the union, allowing her to get health insurance for Chloe. Diane’s “normality” is what keeps her flying under the radar – and keeps Chloe under her thumb.
As ever, Paulson gives the role her all. She plays Diane as a character who has a cauldron of emotions brewing just under the surface where no one can see. It’s not until Chloe challenges Diane that the cauldron boils over and she goes to extreme measures to keep the status quo. Allen, for her part, plays an admirable foil. The 22-year-old actress, who is currently studying Creative Writing at Columbia University, has used a wheelchair since 2014, marking the first time since 1948 that a Hollywood thriller stars a real wheelchair user. (The last film was THE SIGN OF THE RAM, starring Susan Peters, who became a paraplegic from an accidental gunshot wound incurred three years earlier.)
I’ll admit that there are a few times when you’ll be scratching your head at the ludicrousness of the events as they unfold. Most of those times happen in the film’s third act so you’ll probably be so invested in the story by then you’ll probably forgive the writers for their lack of good judgment. The closing scene, in particular, could have easily been written very differently, making it much darker than it was.
RUN was supposed to come to our cinemas months ago but, you know, the pandemic had other ideas. It is finally opening here in Hong Kong next Thursday (March 4). It’s also available on Hulu, in case the cinemas where you live are still closed. Even with its writing hiccups, it’s still nasty fun so definitely check it out!
At this point I normally include the trailer from our local distributor for the film but the one they’ve made for RUN is not representative of the film at all. In its place, here is Hulu’s trailer:
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, February 26th, 8:30 am HK time!
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