Saoirse Ronan? Northern Scotland?? Based on a memoir by Amy Liptrot who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Nora Fingscheidt???
Well, sign me up.
As you could surmise from my rantings, The Outrun is a drama starring Ronan as Rona, a recovering alcoholic who returns to her childhood home in the Orkney Islands of Northern Scotland. Exploring themes of addiction and mental illness, The Outrun follows Rona as she goes down the long and winding road of recovery, and how nature has influenced her life.
Shot on scene, The Outrun boasts some gorgeous landscape shots of the various Orkney landscapes. The rolling hills, crashing shores, blistering gaels over the plains all play a role in how the natural order of the world helps Rona navigate the uncertainty of her recovery path. Often these shots include Rona wandering in isolation as she blasts her lively electronic music, emphasizing just how lonely she feels. Her alcoholism has drastically affected her personal, and romantic, relationships. When she was living in London, prior to returning home, she often fought with her boyfriend Daynin (Paapa Essiedu), pushing him further and further away. The same goes for both of her parents but especially her mother Annie (Saskia Reeves) who resorts to her faith as a means of mending not only their relationship, but also Rona. The lonesome natural world is a beautiful backdrop for such sad isolationism, depicting the consequences addiction has on someone.
But the landscape shots aren't the only thing showing the deft camera work from cinematographer Yunus Roy Imer. Pitch black backdrops where the only light emanates from Rona's
The portrayal of actual addiction is done phenomenally by Ronan. She is in one of her most raw and vulnerable roles here. Often stumbling around, doing excellent physical acting, but the emotional distress Ronan is able to express is stunning. Putting on so many different hats to emphasize the differing personalities you get when struggling with an illness such as alcoholism is tragic to see unfold as Rona pushes away her loved ones. Its grueling to watch and immensely impactful, and honest.
Narrative-wise, Liptrot and Fingscheidt's screenplay jumps back and forth between times in Rona's life, using her hair color as anchors for when these events occurred. I found these jumps to be excellent in creating the depth necessary to understand Rona's character, but they can also be taxing. A multitude of time jumps, the subsequent editing between them can be a little jarring, pushing the pace too far. The result is a film that feels long and oversaturated with exposition, even though the bulk of it is necessary for the emotional attachment to Rona's recovery. There were even a few instances that I thought the movie would end in a satisfying fashion, only for it to push on. The penultimate scene of the film is a gorgeous piece of musical work from composers John Gürtler and Jan Miserre that would've been a stupendous finale. However, the movie inches ahead a little bit more, detracting from the emotional outcome of Rona's journey. I did enjoy the ending, wrapping up in an emotionally satisfying and even humorous way, but I think the muscial finale would've been much more impactful.
Nitpicking aside, I really can't say enough about Ronan's work on The Outrun. Working as a producer as well, its clear how much Ronan cares about the story being told and how its told. Her performance is pure electricity. Ranging from the highest of emotions to the lowest, all in outrageous authenticity and remarkable precision. She's long been one of my favorite young actresses working today with fabulous roles in Lady Bird, Little Women, Brooklyn, even See How They Run a film that I didn't enjoy that much.
Not to be too pedantic with this one, but Salt Flats Brewery in Salt Lake City had the perfect beer to compliment the gorgeous Scottish setting. Their Kilted Harley is a Scottish Ale that hits hard and tastes great. Swinging a solid 9% ABV this brew is a strong drink but the delightful taste reminds you that a Scottish Ale this good is worth it. Delicious roasted malt, caramel, and a nice bitterness provide a wonderful warmth on each sip which suits the blistering winds and rains in The Outrun quite well. I was cold just watching but this beer should warm you up real quick. A great dark pour that's almost completely opaque, with a nice frothy head provides a toasty aroma as well, providing a full experience with each drink.