Oct 8, 2019

24FPS @ LFF 2019: Run

Dir: Scott Graham
Finnie (Mark Stanley) is stuck. He works at the fish factory in Fraserburgh, lives with his wife Katie (Amy Manson) and their children. Their eldest, Kid, (Anders Hayward) is about 17, his girlfriend Kelly (Marli Siu) is pregnant and it looks like he’s about to fall into the same pattern as his parents, whose ‘Born to Run’ tattoos now just look ironic.

Scott Graham’s third film brilliantly captures a very particular kind of inertia. Set over 24 hours, it breaks down into distinct sections, first laying out why Finnie feels so trapped, before allowing him to glimpse a way out and resolving whether he takes it. The first act is simply Finnie’s day to day; an unrewarding and likely fairly low paid job, being driven back and forth by his son, the daily shop for stuff for supper, and a marriage which might have seen better days. It’s notable that this doesn’t seem like it’s the worst day of any of these things, just another day in the slow grind that seems to have been wearing Finnie down. We get it when, after everyone’s asleep, he ‘borrows’ Kid’s car and goes for a spin. Going for that drive leads into the film’s second section, an extended detour with Finnie driving around the town. When she asks where Kid is, he ends up with Kelly in the passenger seat and the two drive around, racing some of Kid and Kelly’s friends, then aimless, waiting for the next race.

The long sequence in the car is ultimately about Finnie recapturing his youth. It’s significant that both the car he’s joyriding in and the girl in the seat next to him are much more connected to his son, Finnie is trying to throw himself back twenty years, when it would have been Katie in the passenger seat. In a way, he’s successful and as the sequence runs on we can see that he’s indulging more and more in the idea of the road opening up in front of him, offering more than a race - the sort of possibilities it might have held when he was Kid and Kelly’s age. The race too feels thematic, speaking of how Finnie has likely tried to escape many times, but found himself always turning the same circle, back to Katie and his kids. This is one of the great things about the film, it’s clearly set on a very significant day, but you can believe that this is just one of many days like it for Finnie; the 24 hours we see feel like a microcosm of a whole life.

As with his previous films, Shell and Iona, Scott Graham achieves a great sense of place in Run. The dialogue is particularly specific, thickly accented and in dialect that takes a little while to settle in to if you’re not from this part of Scotland. This only adds to the very observed feel of the first and last acts of the film, grounding us in the language of Finnie and his family as well as in their lives. Of course, this is also down to the naturalism of the performances. From a technical standpoint, it’s worth noting that few, if any, of the main cast are using their native accents, and all the work in that area is impeccable. 

Mark Stanley and Amy Manson’s performances as Finnie and Katie imply all of the backstory we need. We can see them as young sweethearts, getting pregnant early, putting their lives on hold. We get glimpses that suggest Katie also wants, in her own way, to get out of the ordinary, even if it’s by doing something as simple as wearing a nice dress, though it’s only for a family dinner of fajitas. Because this is largely Finnie's story, Manson is often a more muted presence, but the details of her performance are rich and her scenes with Stanley in the third act have real punch. The two have an interesting energy together, again we can see the couple they might have been in the past, and that things aren’t always so great now. There’s a real sense of shared history between them that gives the film added resonance. It matters that we feel the past while watching these characters' present because the film's last moments might feel trite without it, but the depth of the relationship allows them to work.  

Marli Siu, on the rise after Anna and the Apocalypse and with Our Ladies also in this year’s festival, is also very strong as Kelly. The growing rapport between her and Finnie as they drive around at night has an interesting dual dynamic, as you can appreciate why each of them is being pulled in, but also see that it’s not appropriate. The car sequence is long, perhaps 25 of the film’s 78 minutes, but it’s justified by that growing dynamic and the sense of being caught up in an extended moment, best exemplified when Kelly puts CHVRCHES’ soaring Make Them Gold on the stereo and we’re lost for a few minutes in a classic movie montage.

As Kid, Anders Hayward only comes to the fore in the film’s third act, so talking about his most developed scenes isn’t easy. What comes across again is the authenticity of the family dynamic, especially when Kid and Finnie finally sit down and talk. One particularly strong scene comes at breakfast, with Finnie having to hold up the table because Kid has kicked a leg out from it; you get his frustration with his son, but also a hint that he sees a bit of himself in that action, it’s this back and forth that carries across affectingly a little later on.

I hope a distributor will pick this up soon, because it’s one of the highlights of this year’s LFF and because, three films in, we should be talking more about Scott Graham. Graham has done a great job across his work of digging into the minutiae of ordinary lives and finding stories that feel both specific and identifiable. Run is on those terms perhaps his most developed film, because it could be the story of any numbers of families anywhere around the UK or further afield and yet it grounds you in the specifics of these people and their lives. 

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