Run – Channel 4 – TV Review

Olivia Colman in Run (TV drama)

‘Run’, a four-part drama recently broadcast on Channel 4, was at various stages, moving, gripping, frightening, depressing, and mostly, compelling. The four stories have inter-connected characters and themes and all centre on individuals on the margins of society in modern day London. The four episodes have main protagonists ‘running’ from danger, trying to escape their trapped circumstances. Carol (Olivia Coleman), a single mother, bringing up two feral and ultimately murderous teenagers, Ying (Katie Leung), an Chinese illegal immigrant hooked on paying off a smuggling debt, Richard (Lennie James) a middle-aged junkie desperately trying to stay clean and do the right thing and Kasia (Katharina Schuttler), a Polish cleaner mourning the death of her boyfriend, murdered by Carol’s sons.

This is a London that erupted two years ago in riots, a London the casual tourist or young professional will do their utmost to avoid, an urban nightmare. It is the City at its most frightening, where mugging, assault and violence are constant fears. This makes for great material for writing. It is the acting is that really holds ‘Run’ together though.

‘Gritty’ is an overused word but probably the most appropriate one to describe these remarkable portraits of the underbelly of a great city. The pacing races along; character is king though, and the four main actors deliver. Coleman is one of the more versatile actor’s around, well able to switch between the lightness of ‘Twenty Twelve’ and the sheer despair of something like ‘Run’ – she is utterly convincing as Carol, stuck in a high-rise dystopia, struggling and ultimately broken. Leung carries the vulnerability of her character with considerable skill. James makes you feel sorry for and yet despair at the actions of his character simultaneously – you like the man but hate what he’s become. Schuttler conveys the stress and strains of her situation through subtle use of emotions – acting that keeps the viewer engaged at all times.

Life for the underclass can be awful. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have dignity. ‘Run’ imbues the fictional lives of Society’s ‘losers’ with the significance and humanity that they may not have recognised in real life. A major Channel Four ‘score’.

Run is available on 4oD here.

By Dan O’Neill – Dan writes on TV at and on Politics at

Categories: TV

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