Run Woman Run is a sweet and charming dramatic comedy about family, community, healing, and grief. Written and directed by Zoe Leigh Hopkins (Kayak to Klemtu), Run Woman Run stars Dakota Ray Hebert (In Her City) as Beck, a single mom who is forced to re-examine her lifestyle after she is diagnosed with diabetes. While her father (Lorne Cardinal of Corner Gas) and sister (The Exchange’s Jayli Wolf) beg Beck to start eating right and exercising, she dismisses their concerns — until the ghost of champion runner Tom Longboat (Asivak Koostachin of Portraits from a Fire) appears to coach her though her rut.
Though the film deals with explicit Indigenous issues like generational trauma and language loss/reclamation, Run Woman Run has something for everyone.
Dakota Ray Hebert is hilarious and heartbreaking as Beck. Her performance is relatable, rendering Beck sympathetic and charming even in her most self-destructive moments. Though the plot is, at points, predictable and the pacing starts to lag in the second act, Hebert’s performance is more than adequate compensation. It’s impossible not to root for Beck. She’s flawed, of course, but she’s also loving and funny, and deeply committed to her family.
Hebert’s Beck is also grounded enough to keep the film on its feet even during its more surreal and fantastic moments. Her interactions with Tom’s ghost are as heartfelt as they are silly. While there is plenty of comedy to be found in their banter, Run Woman Run smartly refrains from letting the silliness run the show.
Hopkins’ approach to filmmaking is deliberate and controlled, without becoming stuffy or formulaic. The cinematography makes heavy use of tight, close-up shots that bring the viewer instantly into Beck’s family and life on the rez. The intimacy of the camera helps make Beck’s story feel universal. Even if we’ve never set foot on a reserve or heard a word of Mohawk, the viewer is thrown so immediately and completely into Beck’s universe and point-of-view that it hardly matters. Her struggles with grief, and feeling of inadequacy, are easy to identify with.
Many films that focus on average couch potatoes transforming their lives through fitness goals, like David Schwimmer’s middling 2007 comedy Run Fatboy Run, frame their protagonist’s journeys through a deeply individualistic lens. For Beck, however, running isn’t about winning a race or winning back a lover. Instead, it becomes a means for her to connect to herself, as well as a link to her community, her family, the environment, and her spirituality. This approach makes Run Woman Run feel fresh, even in its more predictable, doldrum moments (though these are few and far between).
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