Settled, just after midnight and pushing past my own exhaustion (post my nine-hour drive), in the darkened Egyptian theater for my first screening this festival, I was brought to life by a resounding opening sequence, foreboding swollen in the room. The first great moment for the film lands in the robust score here, intricately tonal and swirling with an intimidating ambiance, framing the descent to come.
Run Rabbit Run begins and ends with its characters. Sarah (Sarah Snook) is a repressive and avoidant, though normal-seeming fertility doctor who is haunted by an unresolved past and an internal darkness that is ever pressing toward the surface. Her daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre), who she affectionately calls Bunny, is an eerily peculiar though sweet, freckle-faced young girl. She speaks oddly sinister phrases with wholesome eyes, remarking about ghosts on the phone and trotting about in a crude cut-out pink bunny mask. We soon learn that Mia believes she is her own aunt, Alice, who went missing when she was around the same age as Mia is now. This strikes a traumatic cord with Sarah, who has never confronted whatever happened in their youth and thus begins the spiral.
Visually the film conjures an old photograph, gauzy like a memory. It pairs nicely with the color grading that has a sickly moodiness to it. There are some particularly beautifully done shots speckled throughout, especially when the score works well to develop the atmosphere, but overall the cinematography is just alright.
Though their story begins in their own house, constantly battered by storms with furiously gusting winds, the narrative tension most dangerously ramps up when Sarah takes Mia to her own childhood home, abandoned now that her father is dead and her mother in a care facility. Sarah is forced to confront her physical past in a place sodden with memories. She sees her dead sister in every dusted crevice and rages at Mia for ‘pretending’ to be her. Her mind collapses in on itself as Mia and the ghosts become more frenetic, messy traumatic memories resurfacing.
An intelligent actress, Snook always has a subtle brilliance about her. She plays the splintering mother and fracturing consciousness with deft understanding and compassion, which writer Hannah Kent noted in our conversation. She nodded toward Snook finding that compassion in a character that could be interpreted as “utterly unsympathetic,” which certainly adds depth. LaTorre does a wonderful job with her role as well, two parts disturbing and one part playful. It is a shame that the film fails to meet its potential, as these performances ultimately fall flat, unable to save it.
Run Rabbit Run might have something great to say, but it gets misplaced within all the confusion its pacing creates in its final third. It splits into its own tension with, among other moments, an erroneous slow-motion shot. Despite the atmosphere and emotion held throughout, it begins to feel laborious as it loses what it wants to say thematically as well, which might have been something refreshing but instead becomes almost pointless. It is a disappointing end to a promising film.