Run Sweetheart Run, written by Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, and Kellee Terrell and directed by Shana Feste, stars Ella Balinska as Cherie and Pilou Asbæk as Ethan in a cat-and-mouse thriller/horror. Cherie runs for her life as her blind date stalks her throughout the night. Horror is always the best avenue to tackle larger social issues through entertainment. The movie has subtle and overt references to men oppressing women. With the performances of the two leads and the message, Run Sweetheart Run manifests the “men are devils” phrase to horrifically engrossing levels.
Run Sweetheart Run Has Fabulous Show and Tell of Cherie
Ella Balinska makes Cherie. The setup introducing Cherie, a mixed Black woman, is both show and tell. Cherie, based on her behavior at work and home, is biddable. She does not raise a fuss or make a scene, but there is a fire—a resistance—lurking underneath her amiability. The bus scene cements this as a man gropes her on the bus. She remains silent and moves away to exit the bus, but before she leaves, she gives him the one-finger salute.
But that fire is also buried a bit deep. Cherie, like most women, learns to apologize for everything. Even things that are not her fault. So, when Cherie’s boss is double-booked that night between dinner with a client and celebrating their anniversary, Cherie’s boss convinces her to attend the client’s dinner in his stead. Knowing Cherie is a single mom hoping to find a decent man, you sympathize and root for her. That is due, in large part, to Ella Balinska’s performance. She brings a gentleness yet quiet strength to Cherie.
Ethan Is Real
Pilou Asbæk, as Ethan, is charming and chilling in his portrayal. Many abusers appear gentle, awkward, and sweet to deceive women. Ethan plays that aspect of sweet gentility up, reeling Cherie in. Ethan’s routine—shoddy gin and tonic drink, dog outburst—is in place for Ethan to bring in victims.
That is why the “well, he never abused me” falls flat. Abusers do not harm everyone around them. They pick their targets with care to ensure their facade stays in place. Run Sweetheart Run showcases this ritualistic hunt realistically despite supernatural elements. The fourth wall breaks, driving the dread up further as Ethan feels real. He also knows who society cares the least about and who they do not.
Fantastical Story Hides Societal Failure
In this story, Cherie must evade Ethan till morning. There are elements throughout that allow you to suspend disbelief and immerse yourself in the tale. The white girl who calls the police for Cherie and the police themselves treatment of Cherie mirror the treatment victims of abuse, especially Black women, receive. The cops immediately arrest Cherie for public intoxication. They ignore the fact that she did not drink a lot and that fleeing Ethan’s home is why she is in public. You swear and scream at the screen because this is not only fiction. Society criminalizes victims of domestic violence.
It seems unbelievable when a police officer lets Ethan into the cell with Cherie to talk. Yet abusers are often allowed to chat with, and be near, their victims. Power and connections work in the abuser’s favor. This is particularly the case when kids are in the mix. Judges require women to allow the abusive ex-partner visitation rights. Thanks to the police and society giving abusive men entry with a smile, women wind up locked away, trapped. So, Ethan’s victims, as seen by the missing women fliers, are usually Black women. Because he knows society does not care about them.
In Run Sweetheart Run, Cherie lives this experience for a night. But many live this for years. Cherie’s ex-partner, Trey (Dayo Okeniyi), adds an extra layer of frustration. He picks Cherie up, bloody with no shoes. His reaction? Make it about their relationship and claim she’s always like this. I keep wondering if he took the keys when he stepped out of the car. If not, Cherie should have left Trey behind.
Exciting Blend of Supernatural With Reality
Run Sweetheart Run breathes life into the hellish life women abused by men experience. Through a compelling cast, some out-of-this-world hilarity, twists, and terrific direction, Run Sweetheart Run merges impact with a delightfully demonic tale that gets better on rewatch. The music adds an extra layer of entertainment. I also appreciate the direction showing some scenes of graphic violence while not showing others. Run Sweetheart Run is elevated horror and never slows its frantic pace.