LAFF 2014: Runoff
Films set in the Midwest have the perfect background for the slow delivery of a well told story. A natural element of the setting I suppose. Competing in LAFF’s Narrative Competition is the slow and mesmerizing Runoff. Starting with beautiful farm-based imagery that Terrence Malick would appreciate, corn fields and a babbling creek lead to Betty (Joanne Kelly) and Frank (Neal Huff), a couple raising their two sons in a rural farm town. The harvest is upon them, Halloween coming up soon, and Frank’s business dealing antibiotics to animal farmers has dwindled more and more as a larger company steals his clients left and right. Betty tends to her bees, sews her son’s Halloween costume, and attempts to connect with her eldest son who continually rejects the agricultural school future his father continues to push on him. Their situation grows desperate when their home comes under foreclosure and Frank’s health wanes, it becomes up to Betty to make the hard and fast decision that can save her family.
With moving performances all around, standout Joanne Kelly as devoted wife and mother Betty carries the film. The building drama as she realizes the gravity of her family’s situation and the responsibility she has to take on the burden makes the morally ambiguous climax that much more heart wrenching. The increasingly dire situation for many of the working class in our modern economy is a sobering backdrop for this film. The bind this family finds themselves in is realistic and Betty’s choice reflects the appealing quick fixes many would be tempted by. A strong story around one woman’s empowered stance to take circumstances into her own hands is one that is both original and engaging. First time director Kimberly Levin has crafted a quiet and good-looking film that’s small-scale drama impresses the urgency of real-life and the glimmering mirage of the American dream.