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'Runners' (1983) – Charles Sturridge.

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  • 'Runners' (1983) – Charles Sturridge.

    Written by Stephen Poliakoff and excitingly directed by Charles Sturridge, 'Runners' is an exemplary drama about a comfortably off, middle-class family whose lives are shattered after the sudden disappearance of their eldest daughter Rachel (Kate Hardie). Two years interminably pass, their case becomes cold, the news media is disinterested, yet the resolute father (James Fox), single-mindedly, bordering on obsession, still ardently believes that his daughter is alive, and Stoically, he undertakes the Herculean task of trying to find his beloved Rachel somewhere in the oppressive vastness of London. After taking a room in a hotel his ceaseless peregrinations lead him wearily through the multitudinously grey, unlovely tributaries of the city, desperate appeals are made on the radio, hundreds of Xeroxed photos are paraded to disinterested parties; Tom's initial optimism gradually ebbing after the unfathomable deceptions of those dingier denizens he interacts with during his increasingly desperate quest to locate Rachel.

    Poliakoff's cogent text paints a unsettlingly vivid tableau of the increasingly frustrating Lindsay family's life disrupting despair, but the most compelling aspects of 'Runners' is the bracingly realistic milieu of London, its vividly rendered array of not always benign Dickensian characters, and one can sense the unruly stink of decay, poverty, and pernicious vice; a heady, neon-bright metropolis that bedazzles, so enticingly you are distracted from its ruinous, all-consuming, parasite-riddled underbelly. The burgeoning relationship between Tom and fellow sufferer Helen (Jane Asher) is appealingly nuanced, the debilitating grief they share over their missing children binds them fitfully together. Tom, now estranged from his wife Gillian (Eileen O'Brien), is strongly attracted to, and wholly galvanised by Helen's implacable belief that she will be reunited with her missing son. With exceptionally strong performances, dynamic location shooting, George Fenton's lively score, and a refreshingly unsentimental climax, Director Sturridge's rewardingly frank drama remains a vital, sadly neglected 80s gem, 'Runners' is long overdue a worthy HD restoration.


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