In one of the final scenes of Run & Jump, the meaning of the title crystallizes fully -- its main characters leaping in to the Atlantic Ocean in procession as some sort of carefree celebration of who they are and what they have all been through together.
It's the type of eyeroll-eliciting sequence all too common to indie melodramas. We're all special and unique and free and life is pain but also wonderful. In this case, it also serves as a reminder of just how awry things could have gone, were this film replete with similar scenes. Plot-wise, there's a lot -- maybe even too much -- going on here.
As the film opens, Vanetia (Maxine Peake) is bringing her husband Conor (Edward MacLiam) home after five months in the hospital. He suffered a massive stroke that left him in a coma for a month and permanently changed his personality. The Irish family is also welcoming an American researcher, Ted (Will Forte), in to their home so that he can study Conor's unlikely recovery. The tension in their home -- already high as Vanetia comes to terms with the fact the man she married is essentially gone -- is ratcheted up further by Ted's documentation of Conor's strange new behavior with a video camera and a side plot involving the couple's oldest son Lenny (Brendan Morris), a gifted swimmer who is grappling with his sexuality and not getting much acceptance from his father.
This swirling cauldron of emotion, of tragic loss and isolation, is further compounded by a death in the family, a suicide attempt and the natural emergence of Ted as a parental figure and companion for Vanetia as Conor recedes from his family and in to his new mind. It would all be unbearable were it not for the unassuming, subtle performances from the likes of Peake, Forte, MacLiam and Morris.
The stars of Run & Jump are a direct contrast to the story that's being told. Despite all this heartache, there are few tears, no shouting, hardly any great soliloquies -- a wise decision by director and co-writer Steph Green. Former Saturday Night Live funnyman Forte, fresh off a performance in Nebraska that I felt should have been more heralded, cements his dramatic bona fides here.
Yes, MacGruber and one of the Brothers Solomon, can have a nice career for himself if he never does comedy again. I'm as surprised as anyone. Tempting as it is to fixate on Forte, it's MacLiam and Peake especially who steal the film. The actors get as much as they can out of the material they are working with, which speaks well of them and of the director, Green, in her feature-length debut.