Review: 'Run & Jump' Is as Wildly Alive as Its Title

Run and Jump

Does the world really need yet another heartbreaking-then-heartwarming indie dramedy? Probably not, but damn if, with Run & Jump, director Steph Green doesn't make it seem something close to necessary.

On paper, the movie seems like yet another one of those winsomely mawkish pictures that seem to come spewing out of Sundance like cinematic Tribbles: Set in the gorgeous Irish countryside, it opens on a family nervously welcoming back the young husband and father (Edward MacLiam) whose devastating stroke precipitated a coma and a long period of hospitalized rehab -- as well as the arrival of an American research scientist (Will Forte) who moves in to observe and document the miraculous, yet painfully partial, recovery.

Ailbhe Keogan's script hits a lot of the expected beats -- thorny family conflicts, a bullied teenager, an illicit attraction -- but does so with enough sensitivity to keep the viewer from disengaging. This is familiar stuff, but in between the rusty narrative framework, Run & Jump boasts a big, beautiful heart.

Of particular merit is Green's cast, led by the marvelous Maxine Peake as Vanetia, the alternately hopeful and frustrated wife whose interrupted relationship with her permanently altered husband provokes a growing bond with the family's new houseguest. And as the clinically retentive neuropsychologist Ted, Forte gives as good as he gets; a part that would have amounted to little more than pursed lips and downward glances in lesser hands becomes one of the more intriguing examples of recalcitrant leading-man charisma in recent memory.

Ultimately, if Run & Jump never feels like more than a minor work, it's one that offers deceptively deep pleasures. The pace occasionally flags, but the performances are uniformly strong, and director of photography Kevin Richey's work is often strikingly lovely -- especially in the movie's final moments, which deliver the expected grace note with an explosion of color and genuine warmth.

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Jeff is an entertainment writer and editor whose work currently appears at a variety of sites, including Rotten Tomatoes, Paste, American Songwriter, Popdose, Dadnabbit, Diffuser, and Ultimate Classic Rock.

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