Gary Burns’ Man Running, which modestly premiered at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival, follows Jim (Gord Rand) as he participates in a 24-hour marathon. The laborious journey he takes is vertiginously interspersed with flashbacks and hallucinations, suggesting a double struggle for the main character: one physical, one emotional.
The issues represented in Man Running run the gamut from euthanasia to mental illness. Director Burns (who also co-wrote the film with Donna Brunsdale) gives ample filmic space for these issues to be fleshed out, albeit mostly through visual prosody rather than lengthy exposition. The film’s rich cinematography deliberately and provocatively shoots Jim from behind, with the imposing yet wondrous Albertan landscape prominently featured in the background. These images evoke a sense of alienation and isolation, neatly complementing the film’s blurring of the boundaries between the real and the imagined.
Indeed, this trope recurs throughout the film. Jim encounters, through memories or through present-day physical encounters, people that he has connected to in the past. To great effect, Man Running deliberately provides no substantial proof whether these interactions are real or fake. Simultaneously, the flashbacks provide a useful space to explore the ethics of euthanasia, a political issue that, while legally resolved in a sense, continues to pervade Canadian social and political discourse.
Aesthetically and thematically, Man Running briskly explores some of the most pressing cultural issues in Canada today, while maintaining a strong dramatic edge in its narrative.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile