Maxine Peake is a Revelation in Run & Jump


Maxine Peake is a revelation in Run & Jump, communicating vitality and extraordinary optimism that practically bleeds out and infects the visuals. Director Steph Green shoots in vivid colors that harmonize with Peake’s hair and complexion, and the film’s emotional spikes and low points coincide with her character’s.

Peake plays Vanetia, whose young husband, Conor, has suffered a debilitating stroke; he’s returning home from the hospital for the first time, beset with neurological problems and severe depression as the result of rare brain lesions.

Will Forte is the hangdog Dr. Ted Fielding, a tweedy neuropsychologist working on a study about Conor’s condition. He moves into the family’s house and obtrudes into their acclimation with the most clinical of intentions. In a way, he’s as detached as Conor, observing the family mostly through the lens of a camcorder, initially closing the door on Vanetia’s effusive children when they interrupt his writing.

His work with Conor isn’t therapeutic; it’s an abstract study of the impact of specific kinds of brain damage on the theory of the mind. But in the tight confines of an Irish household, it’s hard to keep the walls at arm’s length, let alone the people, and his involvement with Vanetia grows beyond his academic intentions.

Ailbhe Keogan’s script never strays into overt melodrama or Hollywood medical implausibilities, but still maintains its effusive sense of optimism. Life is disordered and grubby, but Green and Peake throw a lot of warm colors over the debris.