MRR Review: "Run & Jump"

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Run and Jump is an unconventional love story and authentic portrait of a happy-go-lucky Irish family.
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Rating: NR
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: January 24, 2014
Directed by: Steph Green
Genre: Drama

"Saturday Night Live" alum Will Forte makes his debut in a dramatic role in "Run & Jump." Forte plays an American psychologist who ventures to Ireland to conduct an unusual research study. Forte's character, Ted Fielding, is on the Emerald Isle to examine a family headed by a 38-year-old husband and father who suffered a stroke which resulted in a rare, nearly complete change of the man's personality. The film tracks the journey of the stroke victim, his family and the doctor from across the pond as they discover their places in a new life order.

Forte turns in a particularly strong performance in "Run & Jump." He portrays a character that is in stark contrast to those he normally plays on television programs like "SNL" and "30 Rock" as well as in his previous films. In "Run & Jump," Forte strikes a believable note as the stiff, fairly uptight medical researcher Dr. Ted Fielding.

Forte's character undergoes the most significant transition in the film. The actor manages the transition believably and in a compellingly nuanced manner. When he arrives on the Emerald Isle, with his video camera in hand to document the family, Forte maintains a stereotypical professional distance from his subjects.

Forte truly shines as he transitions his character from the staid, distant researcher into a pseudo member of the family and the lover of the stroke victim's wife, Vanetia Casey. Forte's seamless character transition is accomplished because of his attention to detail. His work will add him to the list of Hollywood's strong dramatic performers. A moviegoer who initially encounters the thoughtful performance of Forte in this film will not recognize the actor in the bombastic comedic character roles that have been his stock and trade.

Primarily known for her stage performances on London's West End, as well as on a BBC television series, Maxine Peake brightens the screen as Vanetia. Peake manages to play a historically vivacious character that finds her wings nipped as a result of her husband's stroke and associated personality change in an empathetic fashion. Her performance allows a moviegoer to slide into her shoes with a sense of keen understanding, all while feeling conflicted about Vanetia's decision to pursue an affair with Dr. Fielding under the same roof of her likable and sympathetic husband. Through her careful performance, Peake avoids turning Vanetia into a woman the audience dislikes.

Although individual actors shine in the film, the ensemble nature of the case is the reason the overall presentation of the tale is so effective. Ultimately, it is Edward MacLiam's portrayal of Conor Casey that is the ensemble's creative glue. In the end, all of the film's primary characters must play off Conor. MacLiam meets the challenge of playing a character with a nearly totally transformed personality with integrity and charm.

"Run & Jump" marks director Steph Green's feature film debut, having received an Oscar nod for her directorial efforts on a shorter production, titled "Conor." Indeed, the character of the stroke victim in "Run & Jump" is derived from "Conor." Through her directorial efforts, Green illuminates beauty in the midst of a strikingly dysfunctional family. Her direction of the solid ensemble cast additionally infuses the film with a warmth that easily could have been lacking, given the initially bleak circumstances of the family at the center of the movie.

Green elects to utilize a handheld camera at different points in the film, particularly in scenes involving Conor Casey, the stroke victim. The use of this device conveys to a moviegoer the level of disorientation commonly felt by the man. In addition, the use of the handheld device also underscores the initial lack of balance experienced by the rest of the family when Connor returns home after his extended hospitalization.

The well-crafted screenplay is a joint effort of director Green and Ailbhe Keogan. The screenplay is written with an obvious concern for true character development, without which the film would not work. All three primary characters in the film follow significant transitional arcs, expertly laid out within the confines of the pages of the screenplay.

The obvious conflicts that exist throughout the film uniformly become opportunities for the enrichment of the characters. Dr. Fielding's conflict between maintaining a professional distance and becoming the lover of his primary subject's spouse renders him more compassionate. Vanetia's taking of the doctor as her lover reinvigorates her better self. Through it all, Conor slowly regains his own sense of a self, albeit different from the man he was before he experienced a major, personality altering stroke.

Rating: 3 out of 5