February 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Sweet 'Run & Jump' can't hide from its sad situation

Will Forte and Maxine Peake star in the drama 'Run & Jump.' (Karina Finegan / IFC Films)

“Run & Jump” pretty much paints itself into a corner, but it has a nice time getting there.

This small but nice-hearted film is probably only making it to theaters thanks to the presence of Will Forte, who’s performance in the Oscar-nominated “Nebraska” opened a lot of eyes.

Here Forte plays an American neurologist named Ted who’s come to Ireland to study a stroke victim for two months. That stroke victim would be Conor (Edward MacLiam), a man in his late 30s or early 40s who has a loving and lovely wife named Vanetia (the glorious Maxine Peake), a teen son and a young daughter.

Conor returns home a changed and damaged man, nothing like he was before the stroke. He has trouble forming words, his left arm dangles, his emotions are a scramble. Staying in the teen boy’s bedroom, Ted at first keeps his distance from the family, objectively testing and videoing Conor’s behavior.

But Ted’s insular life gets tested itself, first by the children and then more and more by the sheer sparkle of Vanetia, who somehow keeps her spirits up even though her husband has become more of a useless child and strange stranger. Soon enough, Ted begins to open up about his own empty life; and he naturally slips into a father figure role in the household, something Conor can’t even be bothered to resent.

Director Steph Green, who co-wrote the screenplay with Aibhe Keogan, leaves herself no real way out here. Conor is too sweet and defenseless to abandon while Vanetia and Ted are too decent to even consider such a thing. This is not going to work out, even though Green opts to pretend it will, covering a sad, sad story in glitter that will fall away.

'Run & Jump'

GRADE: B-

Not rated

Running time: 102 minutes

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