Richard Heap (director)
10 January 2020 (released)
08 January 2020
Set in Whitby, North Yorkshire writer and director Richard Heap’s The Runaways is a visual treat with some fantastic performances from the young leads, and I would suggest supported by the other more experienced members of the cast.
The story centres around father Reith’s (Mark Addy) three children Angie (Molly Windsor) Ben (Rhys Connah) and Polly (Macy Shackleton) who after he passes away are forced to leave Whitby and make their way across the North Yorkshire Moors to find their estranged mother Maggie (Tara Fitzgerald). The reason for this quest it that Reith’s brother Blythe (Lee Boardman) has returned to the ‘close knit’ community having been in jail for a number of years. Bitter at his brother, for what he sees as an injustice, and feeling he is owed a debt, he is in no mood for niceties with his nephew and nieces.
In genuine fear and taking two of the family businesses donkeys the children set off, lead by the eldest Angie. It starts of as something of an adventure that very soon becomes a test of character, as they have overcome thieves and the hardship of the landscape (beautifully photographed by Phil Wood) as they trudge on.
With posters about them up around the local area, and Blythe in pursuit the pressure is on and the siblings faith in themselves starts to crack. Things don’t improve much when they actually find Maggie and she turns out not to be quite what they expected and matters become more complicated.
The Runaways really belongs to the young cast who are superb throughout as they wrestle with each other, and their own thoughts. With Angie being the eldest and nominal leader soon discovers what responsibility is about and as the pressure piles on there are lapses in judgement. As it does for Ben who makes an ill-considered decision soon regretted. And then Polly the youngest trusting of her siblings but with a streak if independence. They gel fantastically.
Of the others Fitzgerald doesn’t have that much to do as a mother totally out of her depth with the children. While Boardman creates a palpable nastiness with Blythe though maybe veering too close to Oliver Reed’s Bill Sykes at times.
The film is probably a little too long, sagging a bit in the middle as the siblings settle into the journey. As such, despite the strong performances, it doesn’t quite achieve the emotional connection with the children that it seeks, and requires.