Starring: Will Forte, Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam
After her husband Conor (MacLiam) suffers a stroke and is left both physically and mentally disabled, his wife Vanetia (Peake) struggles to look after him and their two children. An Amercian neuroscientist called Ted Fielding (Forte) pays the family to live with them and observe Conor’s recovery, though Vanetia is very reluctant to allow a stranger into her family’s life, she relies on the funds. Vanetia initially finds Ted to be an intrusive part of her life, while he is quite socially awkward and very introverted and so struggles with the situation himself. Ted eventually forms a close bond with both Vanetia and her family, and their initially conflicting outlooks on life both influence and change to help one another deal with their own unique problems.
Many comedy actors like to try their hand at straight roles, and after his role in the excellent Nebraska in which he played with effective subtlety the important role of the protagonist’s son, Will Forte (of Saturday Night Live fame) now has decided to try his acting hand at a low budget Irish drama. Whether it is a risk to try to star in a serious role in a film that ultimately very few people will see is a subject for debate, but I have seen it and can say that not only is Will Forte extremely good in it, but Run & Jump is a genuinely engaging drama from start to finish.
The concept of Run & Jump alone and the arc of its characters may not seem original, but Steph Green’s film’s naturalistic approach does the most important thing a story of this nature can do: give us an opportunity to truly care about its characters. From the start we are given limited exposition; this is essentially a family facing obstacles that may not seem like a particularly big deal in the grand scheme of things, but to them it most definitely is, and thanks to Steph Green and Ailbhe Keogan’s naturalistic screenplay, as well as the raw performances it is to us too.
Steph Green unashamedly throws the viewer straight into the life of both the family struggling to deal with the person that was originally the bread winner now being a dependent and the socially awkward Ted, whose life is his work and before now, nothing else. We learn about the characters through the naturalistic dialogue they share with one another and they get to know and understand each other at the same rate we do of them, making the experience more emotionally involving.
As the narrative develops, it takes turns that could be described as predictable, but there are also plenty that are unexpected. However Green keeps a consistent approach that makes sure that the emotion always feels raw and genuine, but never over the top and unnecessarily schmaltzy, and definitely never preachy or patronising like some main stream films that examine familiar subjects.
Though Run & Jump may not necessarily examine original themes, it does examine these themes in a very effective and emotionally satisfying way. Every character in the film is flawed, imperfect and complex (like all of us), but thanks to the performances and Steph Green and Ailbhe Keogan’s appropriately observed script, they all emerge as sympathetic, engaging and with integrity. Will Forte captures perfectly the anxieties and social inadequacies of his character, as he becomes increasingly conflicted between his professionalism and the compassion he feels for the family members. Maxine Peake is also excellent in her depiction of a character whose situation is a total shock as reversed family roles now make her the bread winner of the family, in a family where tradition is held in high regard. Excellent support is also provided in what are also vitally important roles by Edward MacLiam and Brendan Morris as Vanetia’s husband and son respectively. Run & Jump is by no means a life changing drama, but without doubt an engaging one.
An emotionally involving and satisfying drama: what Run & Jump lacks in originality, thanks to great performances and a filmmaker very much in control of her film, it makes up for in raw emotional satisfying engagement.