Overview: When their abusive, junkie mother is released from prison, a young man named Ray kidnaps his younger brother for a road trip to Santa Cruz. Orion Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 100 minutes.
Oops: It was director Soham Mehta’s bad luck that I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful A Perfect World (1993) the night before I watched his feature debut Run the Tide. Both center on young boys getting shanghaied into illegal road-trips by older men. But whereas the duo in A Perfect World are an escaped convict and a chance hostage, Run the Tide features two brothers, Reymund and Oliver Hightower (Taylor Lautner and Nico Christou), on the run from their abusive, junkie mother after she gets released from prison after six years. The catch is only Reymund actually wants to flee—Oliver, who was too young to remember her horrific abuse and refuses to believe it happened, desperately wants to see her. But the plots cover much of the same narrative and thematic ground: eluding cops, dealing with broken vehicles, bizarre sexual interludes; male bonding, the struggle between responsibility and personal freedom, existential realizations concerning love and affection. A Perfect World highlighted Run the Tide’s failings all the more powerfully.
Great Performances, But for What?: In short, Run the Tide features a number of stand-out performances but very little idea what to do with them. Lautner gives an admirable performance as the confused, conflicted Reymund who, after years of being his brother’s caretaker, has no idea what to do with his accumulated anger and hurt. We see quick glimpses of the man he might have been when he rekindles an old relationship with a young woman named Michelle (Johanna Braddy): a giddy charmer with a warm, mile-long grin. Nowhere is this more evident than a charming scene where he teases and hits on her in a bar after she performs with her band. But most of the time he collapses back into a cocoon of confused pain. Constance Zimmer steals every scene as their repentant mother Lola. She’s so good I wish the film had been told from her perspective. And though Christou’s role really only calls for two emotions—petulant defiance and screeching, weeping fury—he hits them both superbly.
Overall: All of these performances are subjugated to a meandering story with very little idea what it wants to do with them. The central plot point, Reymund’s kidnapping of Oliver, doesn’t happen until almost halfway through. Though there are moments of extreme tension while on the road, including one fantastic scene where Reymund confronts Oliver after he steals his cell phone, there’s never a coherent arc charting Oliver’s acceptance of his kidnapping. Even worse, the film’s eventual resolutions are almost as predictable as a Hallmark movie with lots of talk about Family and Love and Second Chances, all with capital letters. But the most painful part of Run the Tide are the metaphors. The title, if you didn’t know, refers to how fisherman have to follow the ocean’s tide because that’s where the fish hide; they can’t stay still in one place and expect to catch anything. The other metaphor? Oliver’s fear of inside baseball pitches. In one sequence, Reymund teaches him to not shrink away from these pitches but to stand his ground no matter what and swing the bat. Every time the film references this, you can practically hear Mehta yelling from off camera, “Get it?!”
Featured Image: Orion Pictures