October 21st, 2022
MOVIE: RUN SWEETHEART RUN
DIRECTED BY: SHANA FESTE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
As the movie industry continues to give opportunities for new voices, what follows is the sheer honesty of the world that surrounds us. That comes courtesy of more women writing and directing original material, with a brutally sharp, and honest view of the threats that women feel on a daily basis. Run Sweetheart Run is the newest and most surprising output from director Shana Feste (Boundaries). It’s a horror-thriller that will feel too real for most women and displays a sinister game of cat-and-mouse. It could be boiled down to one long night of survival for an unlucky woman but Run Sweetheart Run is a daring and eye-opening reality that all audiences will have to reckon with.
The starting point is a meeting for Cherie (Ella Balinska) in the HR office. Clearly discussing a recent inappropriate interaction with her lawyer boss James Fuller (Clark Gregg) and although that was a settled matter, her hopes of getting in good with her boss have passed, but when a double booking on his anniversary occurs, it becomes an opportunity for Cherie to meet with his client. The day starts by getting her period but she’s determined to be reliable, getting a babysitter, a new dress, and ready to impress. It’s supposed to be a simple dinner, engaging in conversation about law practices, but then Cherie meets Ethan (Pilou Asbæk) and the two hit it off. That is until the fun flirting and gentle glances turn sour. This is not a man to trust, in fact he might not be a man at all, after he attacks Cherie and sends her running for her life. She becomes his prey and like a terminator he never stops, smelling her scent, and prepared to run through fires to make her life miserable.
One factor that can’t be denied is that Run Sweetheart Run is entirely director Shana Feste’s baby. The screenplay, co-written by Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, and Kellee Terrell, was inspired by the directors own awful experiences in dating, but it’s her skill behind the camera that elevates the material. There’s a brilliant use of technique within the narrative, from large, bold text on the screen that states RUN, breaking the fourth wall with our demonic antagonist, and allowing our senses to create the imagery in our head. Feste is not interested in relishing in Cherie’s trauma, but instead her survival, as the character often fights off her assailant, and begins to turn the screws on him with the help of other women in her surroundings. Run Sweetheart Run is not some anti-men speech but instead a story to rally around for audiences to contemplate. If this is the way it is for any woman then it is one woman too many. If that message sinks in than Feste has achieved something.
From the performance factors, it’s a tale of two actors, where Balinska undoubtedly has a magnetism to her, and a spirit that keeps us rooting her on. Similar to Georgina Campbell’s character’s struggles in Barbarian or even Jodie Comer’s turn in The Last Duel, it’s impressive to see an actor begin in one point, and gradually rise as the conflict grows increasingly dire. In one of his more charming but still incredibly devious roles, Pilou Asbæk proves once again that he’s fit for any villainous performance. His work here is reminiscent of work such as Michael Shannon in just about anything, Robert DeNiro in Angel Heart, or Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate, only his dark nature is in the thrill of the hunt, instead of being singularly about pride. One thing is for sure, Pilou Asbæk makes for a terrifying man, someone that you won’t want to be on the run from anytime soon.
Ultimately the praise belongs to Shana Feste and the leap she takes after her previous films. Run Sweetheart Run is a pulse-pounding thriller. It’s made by a director whose previous work included a sweet father-daughter rekindling in Boundaries and would do her own semi-version of A Star is Born in Country Strong. Now she’s breaking out in horror and it’s in the most unlikely of ways, scaring audiences on what one night for a woman can turn into. There’s truth and power in Run Sweetheart Run, the only question is if we can ever bond together, or we will always be running?
RUN SWEETHEART RUN IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON AMAZON PRIME FRIDAY OCTOBER 28TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady