New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: 2022 Chicago International Film Festival Movie Review: Runner

 

While watching Runner, I could not believe that this was the feature-length directorial debut of director Marian Mathias. There is such control and visual understanding in every aspect of Runner that you usually don’t see from someone with only one feature film under their belt. While the story didn’t fully work for me, I was in complete awe of everything I was seeing on screen.

Runner followers Haas (Hannah Schiller), a soft-spoken 18-year-old living on the plains of rural Missouri with her father (Jonathon Erickson Eisley). After her father unexpectedly dies, Haas finds out that he had a mountain of debt and that one of his last wishes was to be buried on a family plot in Illinois. With no other options, Haas heads to Illinois with her father’s body for his burial, only for it to be delayed because of rain. While waiting for the service, Haas befriends Will (Darren Houle), a lonely local who, like Haas, is trying to find his place in the world.

Runner is a movie about connection, loneliness, and being lost in this world and shows how Haas and Will connect even if their connection can be silent. Both people are lost in the world, one by tragedy, one to help his family from across the country, and progressively throughout the film we see their connection build stronger. It isn’t necessarily a romantic connection, but just a connection with people in a similar circumstance.

Hannah Schiller as Haas in Runner (Killjoy)
Hannah Schiller as Haas in Runner (Killjoy)

This is one of the best-looking movies I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival and maybe of the year. Mathias and cinematographer Jomo Fray captured the desolate emptiness of farmland in the Midwest. Shots of Haas or Will standing in the vast plains and farmland with a foggy grey color pallet only put more emphasis on their isolation and loneliness. There were several powerful images in a film that doesn’t have a lot of talking in it.

Mathias takes her time with Runner. There are a lot slower, quiet sequences of character contemplation and them going through a series of emotions that we see play out over several minutes. Mathias utilizes long, still, uncut takes to showcase these moments, which are captivating to watch and make the performances, particularly by Schiller, impressive. Though the film runs a brisk 76-minutes in runtime, it does take a while to get going and when it finally starts to move, it still doesn’t go very fast. Sometimes it felt like it was dragging, but the shots and story of connection keep you invested.

Visually stunning and quietly commanding, Runner is one of the more impressive debut films I have seen in 2022. Though it can be slow at times, writer/director Marian Mathias shows that she is a talented filmmaker who should be on everyone’s radar.

 

Runner played in the New Directors Competition category at the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

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