Global Vibes: British show impresses

Photo Courtesy of Channel 4

With shows like Sherlock and Downton Abbey becoming increasingly popular, more and more British television series are making their way across the pond to America. The most recent addition, airing on Hulu, is Run.

Run is a four-part mini-series that gives a gritty look at life in modern London. The story follows four people who are all running from something in their lives. Each episode focuses primarily on one of four characters: Carol (Olivia Colman, Broadchurch), a single mother of two; Ying (Katie Leung, the Harry Potter series), an illegal immigrant struggling to pay off her debts; Richard (Lennie James, Low Winter Sun), a former drug addict trying to make things right and Kasia (Katharina Schuttler), a Polish woman whose life is abruptly changed.

The show’s diverse and complex camera work is different than what is often seen on American television shows, which rely on constant action and quick dialogue to keep the viewers engaged and persuade them not to change the channel. Run, however, does almost the exact opposite. Many shots linger after the action is over and there are many breaks during conversations between characters, resulting in slow pacing.

Another big difference between this series and its peers is the lack of censorship. The show airs on Channel 4, the English equivalent of networks like CBS and Fox, and contains a number of violent scenes and plenty of foul language that would only be shown on stations like HBO in America.

What makes the show stand out is its cinematography, often times resembling a feature film. Through jump cuts, multiple camera angles and effective use of focus, it is able to portray the rough nature of the lives of the characters. A great example is a sequence of Carol waking up in the first episode. As she turns to shut off her alarm clock, the camera shifts focus to the half empty beer can on her night stand. It then cuts to her lighting up a cigarette and sitting in bed. Though there is no dialogue in this scene, the audience is able to see how stressed and lonely Carol is.

The camera work not only enhances the emotions of the characters, it also allows the story to unfold sans dialogue. There will often be a shot focusing on something that appears irrelevant, but will explain an important plot point later on in the episode. For example, early in the pilot, the camera focuses on a seemingly random tattoo on one of Carol’s sons. Later that episode, the same tattoo is shown on his father, with whom Carol does not get along. When Carol comes home from work, her other son’s tattoo can be seen as she walks through the door. This one says “Mum.” From these three shots, the audience understands the strained relationship between Carol and her sons without any character ever mentioning it.

As for the acting, it is top notch. Each actor is able to perfectly capture the frustration, panic and regret each character faces. Olivia Colman is near flawless in her role; during multiple scenes she is silent, yet the audience needs nothing more.

Run might be different from the norm, but its theme of getting your life back on track is global; this show is not one to miss.