Oh Maxine Peake. I love you, unconditionally. You are possibly the finest actress currently working on British TV, but that talent has never truly translated to the big screen yet. Why can't you do something with Ken Loach or Mike Leigh that would use that impassioned, political streak that shines through your TV, radio and stage roles? Oh and you really shouldn't have attempted an Irish accent here.
Run & Jump is Irish-set feature is the debut movie from US director Steph Green. It's a heartfelt production and perhaps the best thing about it (apart from Peake of course) is the simple fact that it so neatly skirts the melodrama and sappy sentimentality it could easily have been submerged by. It is a film about trauma and disability in a family and the faultlines that appear between a husband and wife when the wife realises that the man she now lives with can no longer be the man she fell in love with.
Peake and Edward MacLiam are our troubled couple, Vanetia and Conor Casey, living in rural Southern Ireland. Conor suffered a stroke which has left him a hyperactive soul with some distinctly challenging behavioural patterns. Will Forte plays Ted, an American neurological doctor who Vanetia and Conor have allowed into their home with a view to observing and analysing Conor's behaviour at close quarters for a filmed thesis he is putting together.
Naturally, Run & Jump's dramatic heft comes from the fact that this house guest becomes a witness to everything that goes on in the house and is ultimately effected in more ways than he bargained for. He begins to observe how Vanetia struggles to hold her family together, especially when Conor's condition manifests itself in some disturbing homophobia against his pubescent son, Lenny. He starts to pick up the slack made by Conor, bonding with the anguished child to slowly become a sort of surrogate father both to him and the infant and endlessly curious Noni. Meanwhile, his own feelings for Vanetia start to develop and come to the fore.
Like many a debut this feels somewhat unsure of itself and a touch too timid in its approach. There's an abundance of picturesque montages and the whole thing looks great, but it never truly engages with the viewer. It's much more accomplished in its quieter moments, when Green trusts her cast to carry the story and allow the natural talent on screen to shine. Despite a wobbly accent, Peake can do this sort of thing blindfolded and her clarity and natural charm shines through as she warmly embodies a character torn between the rapidly dying hope that everything will be fine and the snatches of chemistry she feels with this quiet, initially repressed but decent American interloper.
PS. not enough of the gorgeous Sharon Horgan either!