Directed by Steph Green
Written by Steph Green, Ailbhe Keogan
Starring Will Forte, Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, Sharon Horgan
An American doctor travels to Ireland to study the Casey family after 38-year-old Conor suffers a stroke which changes his personality, leaving dynamo wife and mother Vanetia to run the show.
By the time you’ve reached three quarters of an hour, you might have already begun to wonder just why you’re watching Run & Jump. Steph Green’s deliberately provincial tale of the partial recuperation of a thirty-eight-year-old Irish stroke victim and the effect this has on his wife and young family is a rangy, spattergun affair, sometimes of yawning disenchantment and at other times littered with a stubborn refusal to bow to medical and scientific inevitability.
When Conor arrives home, being released from hospital, after his stroke, he is a changed man, At least so we’re told. Tales of his life before his brief flirtation with the grim reaper are scant and revolve as much around stories about others as well as told by them. Always three steps behind is the neurologist Ted, played carefully by a guarded and understated Will Forte, who before Nebraska came and went, you would have expected to be not the first person to turn up in something quite so, well, independent. Ted is studying Conor’s behaviours as he attempts to start a new segment of his life with new challenges in decidedly old, but thankfully familiar, surroundings.
Conor has the love of his wife Vanetia (Peake), a determined, although sometimes naive, rock battered by the vagaries of what boils down to single-parent responsibility, still aching for the opportunity to live her life where numerous emotional obstacles have been placed firmly in her path, reminding her of the reality of her situation with her now severely challenged partner, who she clearly adored whilst he brimmed with a verve and passion that is close enough to touch, but parts like smog when she reaches for it.When her relationship with Ted begins to blossom, the audience is thrown from comfortable, appreciative empathy to quizzical moral righteousness. Should this woman, albeit put upon to degrees most other people would crumble before, behave in any such fashion, flirting with this American interloper living under her roof in the apparent guise of documentarian to her husband’s painfully slow return to what can only be a shadow of his former real life. And it will no doubt be at this point where most viewers will question, again, the purpose of this admittedly sober and sometimes sombre character study.
Never settling long enough on anyone, the narrative and script are really crying out for more attention to detail. It is feasible to imagine a film being made about any or all of the main characters featured, as all require further depth. The character arcs of most are intriguing in the best possible ways, but practically all of them are undercooked, with the exception of Vanetia, who Peake plays very convincingly all told, displaying despair and hope as eloquently as any performance I have recently seen.
As a piece of entertainment, Run & Jump struggles, however. It will take a sturdy and focused mind to draw everything from the film that we can imagine Green wants to suggest with it, as it does feel frustratingly slow at times and you can be forgiven for wanting something more life-changing to occur as soon as possible, almost from the outset.
In summary, a very well-delivered project that lacks the emotional punch we may have rightly expected. Technically, Green’s direction is impressive, but we cannot help but wish that the script had enjoyed a little more ‘zing’ in the writing. The cast, although perfectly acceptable, semed like they wanted to soar, but only really got the opportunity to dawdle. Nonetheless, a nice inoffensive piece of work from Green and her cast, but this will not be to everyone’s taste.
You can read more of our reviews over at Flickering Myth