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Review: Run Woman Run

March 24, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Tom Longboat was an Onondaga marathon runner from Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, who won the Boston Marathon in 1907. And it’s his ghost (portrayed by Asivak Koostachin) who inspires Beck (Dakota Ray Hebert), the protagonist of writer-director Zoe Leigh Hopkins’ inspirational sports dramedy Run Woman Run, to take up running as a way to get healthy.

Beck is an Indigenous woman living in Six Nations whose life is kind of a mess. She’s a single mother in her mid-30s who still lives in her father’s (Lorne Cardinal) basement, sharing a bed with her young son Eric (Sladen Peltier). When she slips into a diabetic coma and is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, her sister Jess (Jayli Wolf) starts encouraging her to exercise in order to get better.

Beck is reluctant to get healthy, and doesn’t really care about herself, having never properly worked through the grief over losing her mother. She is out of shape (she has started driving to the mailbox for convenience), and spends her days lounging around in a bathrobe eating junk food. But she is encouraged to take up running as a way to ensure that she can be there for her son, and is inspired to keep going by the ghost of Longboat who appears to her one night and shouts the film’s title into the distance; “run, woman, run!”

If the concept of having the embodied spirit of the running legend literally cheering her on as a ghostly coach that only she can see seems a bit corny and cheesy, the film still serves as a decent introduction and tribute to Longboat’s legacy. The story is rarely not predictable in terms of where it will ultimately end up, and the basic premise of a woman who starts running to get her health and messy life back in order recalls Brittany Runs a Marathon.

But the film’s climax still manages to inspire and uplift, and Beck’s journey of taking back control of her health and life, and learning to re-embrace her traditional culture and Mohawk language, is satisfying to watch. Dakota Ray Hebert carries the film with her naturalistic performance, bringing a mix of both dry humour and pathos to her portrayal. Despite some budgetary limitations, Run Woman Run is a pretty charming slice of life film set in Six Nations, that does a fine job of capturing the community.

Run Woman Run opens in select Canadian theatres on March 25th, and will be expanding to more markets on April 1st. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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