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Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Dillane, Saskia Reeves

Director(s): Nora Fingscheidt


Nora Fingscheidt’s poignant adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s fearless memoir details the author’s liberation from drug and alcohol addiction, a triumph forged on the enchanted, wind-battered coasts of her childhood home. The Outrun traces Rona’s false starts and setbacks on the road to recovery through harrowing flashbacks to her downward spiral in London and her reckoning with reality in a strict rehab program. But Fingscheidt is more concerned with Rona’s final destination — deliverance from personal demons through transcendent communion with nature. Grounded in local lore and rich with Liptrot’s journalistic digressions on the land and its life-forms, The Outrun artfully ties Rona’s healing to her growing environmental stewardship. Four-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan gives a heartbreaking, humane performance that moves from woozy self-annihilation to serene calm.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Outrun features a truly magnificent performance from Saoirse Ronan, that is without question one of the best of her career, which makes the adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s best selling novel a compelling drama that captures the recovery of an alcoholic with a true artistic flair.

Based on the memoir of Amy Liptrot, and co-written by Liptrot, director Nora Fingescheidt and co-writer Daisy Lewis, the film tells the story of Rona, a recovering alcoholic struggling to stay sober as her past and present collide. The film is a showcase for Ronan’s performance as Rona, as for the majority of the film it is only Ronan on screen, but the narrative choices of the screenplay support Ronan to bring the audience into the chaos of her character’s recovery. The film jumps between different time periods, from Rona’s party days in London as an alcoholic, her time in rehab, her childhood, and her time recovering and reintegrating back into society after leaving rehab. Jumps to different time periods occur quickly and without date stamps, purposefully disorienting the audience as to where you are in Rona’s life, telling the story the same way that Rona’s inebriated brain processes her current life and past: as a jumbled mess. As her recovery progresses, the jumps are less frequent and chaotic, allowing Rona’s story to play out more linearly. It’s a stylistic choice that not all viewers may grasp upon first watching the film or one that they will appreciate, but it’s a powerful way to tell the story and recreate the confusion and scattered perception of an alcoholic. While the film has a false ending that creates one of the most visceral scenes of the entire film that would have been the perfect note to end the story on, the following scene that is chosen to end the film is such a joyful and personal moment to Rona that will put a massive smile on your face, it immediately does away with any frustration that the previous scene did not close the film.

As with the storytelling, the film’s visuals also play into the disorientation of the inebriated brain. There are lots of incredibly close up facial shots that put the audience right in Rona’s face, allowing them to get a glimpse into her mind. Some of these shots are blurrier, emulating the haze of the inebriated brain, while as her recovery progresses they become clearer and you can see the calm and serenity within Rona. The colour palette of the film also embraces Rona’s recovery, with London appearing colourful during her days of alcoholism and her family home being subdued in grey and bleakness, only to reverse during her road to recovery making the flashy memories of London grey and colourless with a new found vibrance and colour to her family’s home in the countryside and the Orkney Islands. The Orkney Islands themselves dazzle on screen with their natural beauty, including that majestic scene on the cliffs with the crashing waves against the cliffs is the most cinematic scene of the entire film.

Though, the film would be nothing without Ronan’s performance as Rona, as it is the centerpiece of the film. Ronan is one of the best actresses currently working in Hollywood today, but she truly outdoes herself with her performance here. Playing an alcoholic, there are no rules for her to follow as such individuals can be unpredictable in their behaviour, and Ronan captures that with her erratic performance during the flashback sequences as she has spontaneous outbursts that capture being inebriated. She creates a true distinction between Rona’s days of drinking and the more remorseful and soul searching recovery that happens during the film. During the recovery phase where Rona is trying to move herself forward in life and reflects on her past actions, Ronan brings a raw vulnerability that lets you feel every inch of Rona’s internal struggle for sobriety, which is being worked against by the ability to dull her pain by having a drink. It’s a riveting performance that has the potential to land Ronan her fifth Academy Award nomination if the film has the proper distribution and award campaign this year as she is truly on another level with this performance.

While it is no doubt jarring and overwhelming at times to watch The Outrun due to the narrative and visual choices, the reasoning behind them helps to create an experience that truly puts you into the mind of Rona to experience her struggles with her sobriety. Amy Liptrot’s best selling memoir is magnificently brought to life by a fantastic lead performance from Saoirse Ronan, that combined with the stylistic choices to visually capture the functioning of an alcoholic’s brain on camera, makes The Outrun a truly moving cinematic experience of one young woman’s struggle to set her life on a new path.

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