One or two nice moments in this British family adventure drama, a feature debut written and directed by the TV documentary-maker Richard Heap. But it needed something more stringent in the way of script development and script editing, and a bit more on the cutting room floor.
Mark Addy plays Reith, a single dad in Whitby who owns a ramshackle business giving donkey rides on the beach. He has three kids – Angie (Molly Windsor), Polly (Macy Shackleton) and Ben (Rhys Connah) – who are exasperated by their boozy old dad but love him all the same. Things are turned upside down when Reith’s sinister, threatening brother Blythe (Lee Boardman) turns up out of the blue. There’s a crisis, resulting in the three siblings making an extraordinary getaway on foot, across the Yorkshire landscape, with two donkeys surreally in tow, on a mission to find their estranged mum: Maggie (Tara Fitzgerald).
The movie often has a gentle, even preposterously comic feel, especially when the children have to get a ride on a train and hide in the loos with the donkeys when the ticket inspector comes around. At such moments, this reminded me, pleasantly, of something the Children’s Film Foundation might have put out in the 50s and 60s. Yet weirdly, it clashes tonally with something tougher, a more social-realist feel, particularly in relation to some disturbing scenes and images in the film’s opening act.
Eventually, we are given to understand that everything turns on a certain locket, yet the background to this Macguffiny object is not satisfyingly developed, and those donkeys somehow become less relevant and less plausible as the running time goes on. There’s a strong contribution from Molly Windsor as Angie.
• The Runaways is released in the UK on 10 January.
Source: The Guardian