Sweetheart, run! Run has two things going for it. The first is that any story about a woman trying to get away from a man is scary enough on its own. Co-authors Kellee Terrell, Keith Josef Adkins, and Shana Feste know this for sure.
Throughout the screenplay, women face real-world problems like not being believed when they make serious claims against powerful white men, other women standing by while men sexually harass other women, the police being useless, not being able to get menstrual products, and, of course, the fact that a patriarchal society is all-consuming.
Feste, who also directs, is a good example of how women face and overcome big and small challenges every day. In Run Sweetheart Run, Ella Balinska plays Cherie, a young single mother who wants to be an attorney but works as a secretary at a law firm that treats women and people of color badly.
When Cherie tells HR about something unsavory a partner at the firm said, she is shot down with the same old line about how the firm is trying to be a welcoming place for women like her.
Her day gets worse when her boss says she messed up his bookings and makes her go to a dinner with a client. Cherie agrees, and then she is persuaded that maybe meeting the handsome young man would be a good thing.
At dinner, Ethan, played by Pilou Asbaek, seems to be charming, wealthy, and perfect as he compliments her, acknowledges her intelligence, and shows a soft, sensitive side. Everything changes when their feelings for each other turn deadly and Ethan starts a hunt that lasts all night.
Feste shows that he is a good director, and Blumhouse Productions should think about putting money into him. People have said that the production house doesn’t make it easy for women directors to work there. Feste is well-made from a technical point of view.
The camera is put in the right places to catch Ella Balinska’s raw performance. But the movie can’t work because it has a small budget and maybe because COVID makes it hard to do other things. A key part of the story goes beyond the limits of the small budget, which makes the last act less powerful.
Without giving away any spoilers, let’s say that the movie takes the story of a woman surviving in a world dominated by men to a place where humans don’t belong. No matter how good Feste is, she and her co-writers can’t do a good job of translating this key part.
Feste said that a bad date and a sexual assault that followed it gave her the idea for this movie, and you can feel that in how honestly the danger to Cherie is shown.
The movie keeps trying to give Cherie’s trouble a bigger reason, but this is nothing compared to the danger of an ordinary man who wants to make a woman run for her life just for the thrill of it. That alone is scary enough, and if the script is good and focuses on the ways society helps him, the other big reasons can’t compare and become too much.
Even though the story isn’t told very well, Run Sweetheart Run has one clear winner: Ella Balinska. She is wonderful. A mesmerizing actor who has a lot of talent and charm. Her chemistry with Pilou Asbaek is palpable until the two actors skillfully change that dynamic into something more sinister.
Asbk does a great job with what he has to do in this movie. But his most important contribution is being the background on which Balinska can show how good she is. There is no doubt that greatness is possible. This movie has a great idea at its heart, but it’s ruined by rules that don’t work well with such big ideas. Even though the movie has some flaws, it has a lot going for it.
Aside from the script and direction, Run Sweetheart Run has a great score that keeps the movie’s energy high. Robin Coudert shows off his skills by making the perfect score for the dark game of woman-and-monster. This is after doing great work on Oz Perkins’ Gretel & Hansel. At the heart of the movie is a great performance by a new “scream queen.”
The story of Run Sweetheart Run is fierce, and when combined with Balinska’s committed performance, the horror movie is a must-see. But if the story and pace were tweaked a little, this Blumhouse movie might last longer in the horror-pop culture zeitgeist.
The film’s inner mythology doesn’t match up with its main idea, which is that men have trained women to be their prey. Adding a supernatural element to what Cherie is going through takes away from the tension and horror of what she is going through.
This is mostly noticeable at the end, since the movie doesn’t fully embrace that part of the story. Overall, Run Sweetheart Run does what it sets out to do and makes Balinska a star to keep an eye on. With Blumhouse as the main draw and Prime Video making it easy to watch, Run Sweetheart Run will do well as long as people want to see new scary movies.