Good things do happen sometimes to Oscar-nominated directors of short-action films.
Case in point: Steph Green, whose 2007, 11-minutes-long “New Boy” was an Academy Award nominee. Green’s first feature, an insightful and often touching drama-comedy called “Run & Jump,” certainly suggests more good full-length movies to come.
Set in Ireland, “Run & Jump” is anchored by a vital performance from Maxine Peake (British television’s “Silk”). Peake plays Vanetia, a middle-class wife and mother whose woodworker husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam), has recently returned home from a lengthy hospitalization following a rare stroke.
We can tell from the occasional flashback that Conor is not the man he was. With some of his memory gone, an altered personality and a childlike impulsiveness making daily life a challenge, Conor’s unpredictable behavior at home proves overwhelming for Vanetia.
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She is not, however, alone. An American psychologist, Ted (Will Forte in a buttoned-up performance), has arranged for much-needed money to go to Vanetia’s family. In exchange, Ted moves into their house and observes Conor as a case study.
It’s easy to predict what happens next, yet when it does happen — unhappy Vanetia and isolated Ted turn to one another as emotional intimates — there’s nothing tawdry about it. Green portrays the lonely characters’ draw to one another, under the special circumstances, as a sign of life.
But Green is also after bigger and more interesting fish. “Run & Jump” is really a story about two kinds of observers: Ted, watching the world from the sidelines and becoming an interloper in an impossible situation; and Vanetia, hopelessly looking at the shards of an old life while her normally ebullient spirit drains.
In Green’s smart and satisfying film, these two people — different kinds of strangers under the same roof — seek nothing less than authenticity.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org