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Daley grind in The Runaways

10 January, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Life’s a beach: Mark Addy, right, in The Runaways

THE RUNAWAYS
Directed by Richard Heap
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆

A ROAD trip with a difference, this Yorkshire-set tale is a consideration of childhood – and how the behaviour of adults shapes and informs the happiness and well-being of young people.

It is a powerful theme, explored to a degree here.

Writer/director Richard Heap offers no easy answers, and The Runaways is all the better for not trying to do so.

We meet siblings Angie (Molly Windsor), Polly (Macy Shackleton) and Ben (Rhys Connor) as they help their dad Reith (Mark Addy) with his donkeys on the beach.

He was once a trawlerman but is now reduced to earning a living by working the summer season, offering rides for daytrippers.

They live in a jerry-built home on a cliff, with their animals grazing on the coarse seashore grasses: the donkeys’ toughness, it transpires, is mimicked in the children.

One day, Reith’s brother Blythe (Lee Boardman) appears – we learn he has been serving a stretch and he has some family debts he wants settling.

His return coincides with a sudden tragedy that leaves the children with difficult choices. The answer is to head to the hills and hunt for their long-lost mother (Tara Fitzgerald).

So begins a traipse, with donkeys in tow, across the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, with Uncle Blythe trying to track them down.

Helped and hindered en route by various characters they meet, the world becomes a very big place as they walk unknown paths.

The Dales offer little shelter but grand vistas to illustrate how small the children feel. The donkeys offer little to the story, but do look cute.

While this film has its share of melancholia, it is also about young people’s resilience and their ability to overcome desperate situations. It is about the love that binds families together.

Another key underlying narrative is a tacit acceptance that in the UK today, public authorities are so cut to the bone that there is no longer a reliable state safety-net for when things go awry.

The children’s response to being in a position of having to fend for themselves does not see them throw themselves at the mercy of authorities – they believe the demise of such social care is such it would not be to their benefit

Director Heap has created believeable characters against an unbelievable backdrop. That there is a fantastical element to the story helps make it more compelling. There is no big revelation conjured up in the hearts and minds of the trio – they simply have the importance of caring for those close to you hammered home.

The Runaways is a small story told on a grand scale.

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