About two years ago, I was able to interview the principle cast and the director Steph Green of the film Run and Jump at the Tribeca Film Festival. Due to some surreal travel experiences that year and some short notice scheduling conflicts I was unable to see the actual film. Fast forward to two years later when the film is put on Netflix and I finally get to the see the film, and needless to say, I had gotten the chance to see it when it debuted. It’s nothing world-changing, but it’s a film dedicated to telling the story through the female’s perspective and an intimate familial drama that refuses to simplify.
Vanetia’s (Maxine Peak) husband Conor (Edward MacLiam) has recently suffered from a stroke, leaving her and her two children in a bit of a disarray. He’s survived and healed enough to be able to come home but still isn’t the father and husband they all remember. Enter Dr. Ted Fielding (Will Forte) who has come for the two month period to study and try and help Conor with his rehabilitation. Ted and Vanetia strike a bond as the family unit tries to stay afloat.
What takes place in the following movie isn’t so much surprising as it is fresh. Vanetia is the stories main protagonist. She’s strong and her smile might be the biggest and brightest of any film or television show I’ve ever seen (move over Ellie Kemper). She’s the glue that’s holding everyone together and impossibly strong willed. Nothing sneaks past her or renders her clueless. She has an eye on everyone and everything. Her relationship with her husband is a frustrating one but she tries to make it worth because their love was all consuming. Her relationship with her son is sweet and nuanced and their bond is palpable. Her relationship with Ted is new and sparks with boundless possibilities that can’t be broached. Forte and Peak share a tender chemistry that just begins to creep over the line of friendship and what Green does so intelligently is blur the line and throw everything a bit out of focus. Does Ted develop feelings for Vanetia or has he found a family of kindred spirits. One of the strongest moments of the film comes from when Ted finally lets loose a bit and shouts and cheers along the son at a swimming match.
I loved the color in this film. There was so much blue and yellow in the clothing the characters wore and the hues of the shots set against a naturally rainy and and green climate. Then there’s Maxine Peak’s outstandingly ginger hair. I covet films that utilize atypical color pallets. It makes the entire story a bit warmer, more inviting. We, like Ted, are getting a glimpse into the family’s life and we need to understand why it is he’d fall in love with it all. Beyond the dialogue, beyond the acting there’s the direction and the instruction of color which just coddles you in until you feel as if the setting and the experiences are all tangible.
There’s an honesty in Green’s storytelling that helps with some of the more stilted moments. The ending feels real and the way in which the family interacts feels real and vulnerable. Nothing is glossed over or glamourized. It’s a story about a family that’s a little banged up and Green never tries to hide the bruises.
All of this is told with Vanetia as the pioneer of the story, making it all the more special. Again, Peak is an absolute joy to watch and sells the moments of grief and anger as well as she sells the moments of joy. Another standout scene arrives when she and Ted celebrate his birthday and they ride bikes in the rain, a little high, and simply live in the moment.
It’s a movie told in moments and while I won’t go recommending this one to everyone I meet, it’s a beautiful portrait of one family with a fantastic female lead. Let’s all hope that director Steph Green gets to continue making features such as this.