Don’t Walk. Run Sweetheart Run (2022) Into This Pulse-Pounding Date from Hell
Title: Run Sweetheart Run
First Non-Festival Release: October 28, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Shana Feste
Writer: Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, Kellee Terrell
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Starring: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbæk, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Pre-law student and single mother Cherie (Ella Balinska) is forced to take on a client dinner for her boss after double booking him. Suspicious that she didn’t make the mistake yet afraid to correct her boss for the fear that he will rescind his recommendation for her law school application, she agrees to meet with the client. When she meets Ethan (Pilou Asbæk) she realizes she is in for a truly special night after he charms her instantly. As their night wraps up, she takes him up on the offer to stay the night not realizing that she’s about to spend the rest of her night fighting for her life being chased across Los Angeles.
A pulse-pounding horror thriller with bite, Run Sweetheart Run combusts with fiery feminist statements on safety and solidarity.
Starting with an explosive first act, Run Sweetheart Run sets the stakes of its perilous LA midnight run into action in the most glorious fashion. At roughly 16 minutes into the film, bright, bold credit cards flashing “RUN” instill a sense of nostalgia and camp into the narrative that sets the scene for the remainder of Run Sweetheart Run. Fun directorial moments like this pepper the film, making for an exciting and unique watch. Tongue-in-cheek fourth wall breaks and cheeky lines allow the tone to consistently stay light-hearted when the film cautions it may venture into dark territory.
Much of the success of the film rides on the performances of leads Ella Balinska and Pilou Asbæk, who exceed expectations. Balinska is put through the ringer as Cherie gets tossed, bruised, and psychologically tormented through the night in addition to her own self-mutilation. Through grit and determination, Balinska allows Cherie to fail in her attempts at evading capture gradually learning through each interaction what works against her attacker while postulating on who or what he truly is. Asbæk is given the easier task of appearing at every moment Cherie believes she can win only to foil her plans. His charm exudes as often as his menace. The power behind his confidence and seemingly omnipotent control of the situation believably imbues a sense of hopelessness in Cherie. Yet this never stops her.
Despite its invigorating thrills and commitment to its metaphorical roots, Run Sweetheart Run is enervated by plot holes and contrived story plugs to keep going. Rules change depending on the needs of the plot, which over time, adds up to make for a particularly irritating watch. What degree does something keep Ethan down after striking him? What obscures the scent of her blood and how long can it be hidden for? It doesn’t matter because it changes when the narrative needs it do change. Minor things like strangers’ phones opening without a passcode and characters coming back to life moments before being dispatched again elicit more eye rolls than frights.
Many will take issue with the many feminist statements behind Run Sweetheart Run. The messages are as subtle as a jackhammer. Throughout the night, Cherie finds herself at the mercy of terrible men that either refuse to take her seriously, make snide comments to her, or are complicit in her night from hell. While it’s clear that Run Sweetheart Run makes the case that horrible men make life horrible for women, that isn’t all it has to say. Between these moments of real-life horror, there are flashes of real solidarity from both women and men who are eager to help Cherie however they can. Whether it is offering a ride, intervening with drunk strangers at a club, or taking on the bastard himself, Cherie isn’t alone. Obvious barbs of “smashing the patriarchy” or “burning the whole place down” aside, this is the prevailing message of Run Sweetheart Run, regardless of how sugary sweet it gets.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this otherwise lovely film is how convenient Cherie’s escapes get throughout the film. This idea that she is special and particularly adept at handling the grueling task of surviving the night is blunted by perfect storms happening time and again. After the third time, it gets beyond tiring. While the ending feeds off an energy counter to this, it really doesn’t feel earned plot-wise based on how many times Cherie falls into the graces of good luck rather than wit. She certainly has the mental fortitude to win, but it isn’t as developed as it could be to support that narrative.
An excellent thrill ride, Run Sweetheart Run isn’t the empty #girlboss movie that its detractors claim it to be. While riddled with plot holes and conveniences, this indie Blumhouse acquisition has enough spark to engender love from good faith viewers. A great cast and clever directorial choices elevate the weak script to new heights making for a positively thrilling experience. Although audiences looking for something truly thoughtful on gender politics may find themselves puzzled at this campy run-or-die film, it still has plenty to say. Those seeking out a fun thrill ride will find that this marathon is worth the sprint.
Overall Score? 7/10