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Short, bleak and tense, Run is writer/director Scott Graham’s third feature, his third to have a single syllable title and the third to be about a person bridling against a life of limited opportunity.

His previous two, Shell and Iona, were about semi-attached women, Run is about a very-married man. Finnie (Mark Stanley) is a big, permanently angry husband and father stuck in a crap job in a fish preparation plant in Fraserburgh (Graham’s home town), north west Scotland. Hating his job, he’s also resentful of his son, Kid (Anders Hayward), who’s just walked off the same job, and painfully resistant to the charms of Katie, his doting wife (Amy Manson).

Both Katie and Finnie sport his-and-hers Born to Run tattoos, also the title of the first short Graham ever made, back in 2006. It was also this film’s working title, which became We Don’t Talk About Love before finally settling down as Run. The song Born to Run also provides an opening quote to kick off this exploration of what it is to be trapped, still in your 30s, with a life constrained by lack of choice. What do you do when you’re born to run but can’t?

Run is about the night Finnie can’t take it any more. Grabbing his son’s car, he heads out for a night of burning along the local by-pass, just like he used to do when he was young, en route accidentally picking up Kelly (Marli Siu), Kid’s just-dumped-and-pregnant ex-girlfriend. Finnie got married at 17 and now his own son is 17. The cycle is about to repeat itself.

At home with Katie
At home with Katie

Graham paints a bleak portrait of British life outside the big conurbations, of girls tottering along drunkenly in heels, boys punching each other’s lights out after a night at the pub, everything bathed in the cruel sodium glow, once ubiquitous but now disappearing in the LED age.

But mostly he focuses on Finnie, his slightly odd, faintly Freudian relationship with his son’s ex (at home, earlier, Kid had tellingly referred to his mother as “hot”), Oedipus and the Death Drive both lurking somewhere in the subtext while Finnie has a moment of youth relived, grapples with his life as it is, and decides what he’s going to do about living the rest of it.

Stanley will be familiar to many as Grenn from Game of Thrones, or as the tightly coiled brother in Clio Barnard’s excellent Dark River. He’s as tightly coiled here as Finnie, a man desperate to regain some control over his life and finding it at the wheel. Graham’s camera lingers on Finnie palm-steering his son’s car, and there’s a foreplay angle in the way he caresses it through the corners. Graham also takes time to indulge his fascination with a compelling female face (Chloe Pirrie in Shell, Ruth Negga in Iona) – both Amy Manson (as Finnie’s wife) and Marli Siu (Kelly) have camera-magnetic features.

Again there’s a join-the-dots, fill-in-the-blanks aspect to this film, where what’s not said is often more important than what is. It’s the sort of screenplay that asks actors to act. Thankfully, they can.

How we got to this post-political world of the left-behinds isn’t addressed, as it isn’t in Springsteen’s songs, three of which are used in one way or another, and he gets a thanks credit at the end of this short film that clearly shares the same concerns.

The tendency of films about working class life to be glum, if not grim, properly gets given its head here, though there’s tension enough in the edgy looks, the angry plot and the livewire acting of Run to push those concerns to the margin. After three films on more or less the same theme – lives in limbo – the question has got to be: what will this talented film maker do next?

Run – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

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