By Michael Williams.
It’s unfortunate that the writing in The Runaways (2019) often times leans too heavily on pretention, because it’s stellar cast hits every beat to perfection.
Despite being written and directed by English filmmaker Richard Heap, The Runways reminds me cinematographically (and to a smaller extent, plot wise) a lot of American midwestern indies of the mid 2010s (Joe, Midnight Special). There is an ominous and meditative tone to The Runaways that suits the Yorkshire marshes well.
The cast of Mark Addy as Reith, the drunken but well-meaning father; uprising star Molly Windsor as disgruntled and moody Angie; and a gobsmacking stand out performance by Tara Fitzgerald as Maggie, the seemingly bipolar mother. The only performance I was not impressed by was Lee Boardman as the thief cum uncle, which I found often over acted and campy.
Overall though, I was impressed with the casting for this film, however there are moments when the writing, while usually consistent and has some sparks of genius, can veer into pretention. The plot starts off when Reith’s younger brother Blythe visits town after being released from prison. Reith dies that night from alcohol poisoning and Blythe wishes to steal something of his. The kids are left with no parent and Blythe threatened to send them into foster care.
With no other option the kids choose to trek across country to find their mother who left them when they were young. Before they do so they decide to give their father a water burial – this is where Ben, played by Rhys Connah gets his jumper caught on the ropes holding the body and falls to the bottom of the sea. When he comes back, he says, “he sings”. While it ties in with a motif where the children continue to see their dad throughout the story, it felt jarring here and unnecessary.
In more redeemable moments, there is a frustrated train post man that is being harassed by Ben who is incredibly relatable. “Thank you,” says Ben. “Yes. Thank you too.” Says the frustrated guard. Also there is a moment, I won’t spoil too much, where a donkey is squealing in a toilet and the person outside of the toilet is terribly confused.
I was also impressed by the writing of the character Maggie, I could gather her mental illness without being told explicitly, though there is one moment where she does do an act which I felt could have used more lead up.
Overall The Runaways was a mixed bag, but I
think the writer director has a lot of potential and is hitting on some
interested and moving themes. The cast was undeniably stellar making this film
hard to rate.
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