By Alex De VoreOctober 13, 2021 at 12:00 am MDT
We’ve seen movies wherein some schlubby nobody decides to turn their life around through running (Brittany Runs a Marathon, for example, or Run, Fatboy, Run from David Schwimmer, weirdly), but in the case of Run Woman Run, we haven’t seen it done quite so charmingly or in such a relatable fashion.
Here we follow Beck (Dakota Ray Hebert), a young single mother in rural Canada who lost her own mom and now spends her days in a pizza robe smoking and eating garbage and sometimes working for her dad at his tire shop. Upon discovering she has diabetes, Beck decides that if she can do just one thing right—running—it might be the catalyst that repairs her relationships within her family. Of course, running a marathon isn’t so easy, and Beck has to face the requisite movie obstacles and such. It’s funny.
Hebert is flawless as Beck, the kind of woman who’ll drive to the mailbox at the end of the driveway rather than walk, and who’d rather eat her father’s entire housewarming cake in the middle of the night than take any sort of accountability for herself. Still, the disease is omnipresent, and whether it’s through that or her strained relationship with her son, she starts to see (or hallucinate) the spirit of Tom Longboat, a real-life Native athlete who won the Boston Marathon in 1907 and who, as the legend goes, could run faster than a horse. Between the hallucinations, a judgmental sister and the super-hot boy-next-door son of her father’s ex-girlfriend (Braeden Clarke), Beck’s goal to run a marathon doesn’t go easy, though sometimes it’s about trying one’s best rather than actually doing the thing.
Hopkins’ direction is sublime, particularly in her representation of small town emptiness. From the drive-thru coffee/donut/smokes stand to the disco ball lighting of a meat raffle (complete with a cameo from Gary Farmer, with whom you’ll find an interview on page 22), it becomes easy to see how someone could just sort of start drifting. Hebert’s scenes with Tom Longboat (Asivak Koostachin), however, speak to a universal sense of dread and doubt, as does her ultimate epiphany that doing something for oneself is sometimes the best way to be there for others.
Thus, Run Woman Run becomes a small but powerful movie that might not match the grandeur or intensity of what passes for cinema today, but reminds us that a simple story told well can be all the more impactful in its subtleties.