Film Review: Run & JumpSteph Green's first feature has more going for it than a solid dramatic turn by Will Forte.
Will Forte, current co-starring in the Oscar-nominated Nebraska, finds an ideal vehicle in Steph Green's Run & Jump, playing a brain researcher who gets more involved than expected with the family of an Irish stroke victim. The actor's name will draw attention to the film (which also marks Green's debut and that of co-screenwriter Ailbhe Keogan), but Run feels not a bit like a credibility-earning vanity project and should find many admirers.
Forte's Ted Fielding, planning to write a paper on a man (Edward MacLiam's Conor Casey) whose stroke put him into a coma and left him with a much-altered personality, comes home with his patient from the hospital armed with a video camera and very little sense of humor. Casey's family, excited but very nervous to have "New Dad" around, tolerates Dr. Fielding while struggling not to take Conor's outbursts—he taunts his son at the grocery store and chops up old pieces of woodworking instead of trying to sell them—personally.
With time, it becomes clear that a straitlaced academic is more comforting than a loved one who (though possessing a poignant semi-awareness of his own transformation) is no longer loving. Fielding is befriended by Conor's sons and by Vanetia (Maxine Peake), his redheaded wife whose bravery in these trying times is hardly acknowledged by her in-laws, nor by friends who suspect (as we do) she's becoming inappropriately familiar with the new man in the house.
The mutual warming between Ted and Vanetia isn't played for sensationalism, but as a gentle familial character study that benefits from Green's feel for the setting. Interiors are bathed in golden light, Vanetia's music collection feels lived-in, and excursions around County Kerry (though less frequent than scenery lovers would like) contain hints of what the Casey family was like before their misfortune.
A subplot involving Conor and Vanetia's son (Brendan Morris) lets the screenplay deepen Ted's entanglement in family matters without pushing his relationship with Vanetia into uncomfortable territory and advances the notion that there might be a healthy place for him in the household. Forte is highly sympathetic, quiet and watchful but eager to be present when he can be helpful. Keogan and Green's resolution, which underplays melodrama and avoids sentimentality, is unusually (and, given the characters' natures, appropriately) restrained.