A quiet and observant sports drama, When She Runs, like The Fits, is a film that lives and breathes process. Our lead Kristen (Kirstin Anderson, also credited as a co-writer) goes through her daily life which involves late night training sessions at one of those unstaffed 24-hour discount gyms, working at a snow cone shop, and visitations with her five-year-old son. While her age is never explicitly the subject of the film, she’s given a once-in-every-four-years shot at moving up to the next round, qualifying to train for team USA. The now or never spirit haunts everything she does.

Directed by Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, When She Runs, like the team’s previous feature God Bless the Child, is largely a work that provides the raw material, requiring some narrative heavy lifting from the audience. Whereas God Bless the Child proved to alienate with the blusterous rhythms of children left alone to fend for themselves after the departure of a caretaker, When She Runs is far more nuanced a portrait of a runner obsessed with a goal. Striking a contemplative and often meditative tone as Kristen discusses her low-calorie diet with her roommate, her relationship with her ex-husband and son, and trains a newbie at the snow cone shop, the film savors long takes, luxuriating in the space of a transformative summer in an anonymous small town anyone would want to escape.


Looming over the narrative is what the great Bruce Springsteen once called the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” as Kristen makes a break from the kind of lives the young family patrons of her snow cone shop have. Instead she chooses to strive towards a goal one might pursue right out of high school. Her roommate thinks she’s nuts and her ex-partner thinks she’s selfish.

When She Runs is a film that’s beautifully restrained; even in triumph it strikes a quiet and ambiguous note keeping Kristen at the same distance she keeps those around her at. The result is a quiet portrait steeped in the rhythms of small-town life as Kristen breaks bad, stopping at a hamburger stand where a clerk engages in a conversation about her life with the kind of insight only an uninformed perfect stranger might. Often the pursuit of an obsessive quest can be an alienating experience, especially when one does not come from means. When She Runs captures the alienation beautifully, free from inspiring speeches and climatic sports movies tropes.

When She Runs screened at the Montclair Film Festival.

Grade: B+

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