Runaway is a short film written and directed by Tom Ruddock. The film follows a young man named George who has just emerged from an awful situation that fills him with guilt. He was involved in the hit and run of a child as he was rushing to attend the birth of his own child. The words accident and crime become mingled as George tries to find a way to cope with his actions. The film explores the unpredictability of life and how a mere accident can change a person’s sense of self.
It’s important to note that not much is known about the character of George or his friend prior to this one unlucky day where he is struggling to make the right decisions. Rather, the ambiguity allows George to seem as ordinary and random as any other person who is in a rush to get to somewhere. The reason for that would be to show how a situation like this one could happen to anyone. Everyone always thinks they know exactly what they’d do in tense situations. We imagine we’d do the right thing and act bravely. Yet, the reality is that people react off of impulse and panic more so in stressful situations than they do off of deep thought and analysis.
When George tries to explain his actions in fleeing the scene to his friend, the audience is meant to identify with the friend’s look of judgment and disappointment. The type of person that would hit a little girl with their car and keep driving sounds like an absolute monster. It’s the type of person we assume none of us would ever become. Yet, it’s a situation any person could easily be put in because accidents do happen all the time.
George didn’t fail to stop simply because he didn’t care that he hit someone. His lack of perception in seeing how to appropriately handle the situation is just a testament to how dismantled people can become in moments with lots of pressure where unexpected things happen. They lose a sense of who they thought they were. They act out of fear and trauma and can end up further criminalizing themselves. Other people, even their loved ones, look at them differently for not acting in the manner they thought they would.
When George’s friend says “You’re a good guy George, alright. You’re one of the good guys,” he gives him a distinct look. It is no longer one of criticism, but of pity and sadness for his friend. His friend is shocked and disturbed that his friend could’ve ended up into such a horrible situation. The feeling of wanting to help as much as possible, but knowing there is not much he can do comes across clearly and it’s heartbreaking.
“Yeah well who hits a little girl and drives off? Who does that?” George is questioning himself and his own actions as if they were that of a total stranger. It shows that the things he does in this single day are things he never expected himself to do. As a result, he’s confused about who he is now. How much does this incident and then his inability to take ownership for his actions change who he is as a person? He hasn’t told his partner Abbey or anyone else really besides his friend. The secret becomes this great barrier for him in trying to resettle into his life. He feels the need to keep running forward even though there isn’t a distinct end destination because he simply doesn’t know how to go back anymore.
One of the most powerful scenes is when his friend shouts “Then wake up George!” and George says “I can’t.” There is no escaping his actions because even though it was an accident, it was still something he did. It was still something he ran from to avoid the consequences. The reality and the irony there are so subtle and bittersweet. This whole situation seems like a really bad dream and yet it is also normal enough to happen any day to anyone. As the car drives away, the camera moves to the point of view through the apartment window. There is this shot of George’s phone left there ringing with Abbey’s name and the word home popping up on the screen. That scene works so well with the theme of loss of identity and the title because George no longer has a home.
Something I found ironic overall is that on this very same day where George is trying to help bring life into the world and accept the role of parent, he has to deal with the burden of possibly taking a life. The accident shakes his identity and it made me realize how unpredictable life is. We make plans, we have specific destinations, we think we know exactly who we are and still there are things that happen to us that shift our definitions all the time.