CTT 2014: Sarah Prefers to Run (2013) – Movie Review

Director: Chloé Robichaud
Writer: Chloé Robichaud
Actors: Sophie Desmarais, Jean-Sébastien Courchesne, Geneviève Boivin-Roussy
Runtime: 96 min
Rating: 14A

Chloé Robichaud’s new film, Sarah Prefers to Run, will be right up the alley of those who enjoy a silent, contemplative movie, full of expectations on the viewer to form their own opinions and outlooks into the characters and situations depicted within. Chosen to be one of TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten and featured at said festival, it is only necessary to watch a few minutes to understand why.

The film tells the story of Sarah (Sophie Desmarais), a young girl whose sole passion is to run. When she is offered a spot in McGill University to continue pursuing her dream, Sarah is met with hesitation and lack of support from her mother. Unfazed by this obstacle, she pairs up with her friend Antoine (Jean-Sébastien Courchesne), and they both set out to Montreal in order to seek what they desire. Once there, Antoine suggests they get married in order to get a government bursary given to young couples in university. Sarah must not only face this proposition, she must also deal with her own changes, both emotional and professional, and, in the face of an illness that could potentially end her career, she has to deal with the consequences of all her decisions.

Sarah Prefers to Run

Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is Robichaud’s directorial debut, as she already shows the talents of a good director and a dedicated artist. There is a certain maturity about her film that differentiates it from other first works, and makes the film quite valuable. One might think that because this is a relatively unknown director with a relatively low budget, certain details might be neglected, or acting chosen sparingly just to get the job done; however, this is not the case with Sarah Prefers to Run. According to Robichaud, Desmarais trained for six months in order to acquire the form and behavior of a runner. This dedication translates beautifully on screen, as Desmarais plays an athlete perfectly, even making the audience believe that she must be an actual runner off-screen. Desmarais is fantastic as the introverted Sarah, and it is not only her efforts to become a runner that need to be noted, since her performance is perhaps the film’s greatest asset. Sarah is not the most entertaining protagonist, but Desmarais manages to give her a certain air of mystery – almost tenderness – that keeps the viewer interested and fervently invested in her future. She took what must have seemed like quite a boring character on a script, and turned her into a silent yet insightful persona. Proof of her great acting can be noted in an awkward sex scene with fellow cast-member Courchesne, which perfectly depicts a sloppy, almost mechanical encounter that has the audience twisting and turning in their seats, and not from enjoyment.

Sarah Prefers to Run

Too little credit is given to Canadian film, not only around the world, but in its very own country. Sarah Prefers to Run is a great introduction to the possibilities and wonders of cinema in Canada, and it holds many rewards for the viewer. If one decides to embark on this journey, however, they might find themselves disappointed with the open ending Robichaud chose for the film. However, she claims that giving the film this free ending was giving Sarah freedom, and a world of possibilities. This suggestion does not mean that it is not a happy ending, but it doesn’t mean it is, either. It is quite evident that a great deal of thought was put into the turn of events in the tale, and the viewer should not be disheartened.

What’s most exciting about Sarah Prefers to Run is not the film itself, but its director. Robichaud seems eager to explore herself in order to manifest what she finds into film, which is a brave venture, and one that usually results in interesting outcomes. It seems as though she is very interested in learning what the spectator makes of her work, and once the film is done, she claims that it is no longer hers, but ours. Let us hope that she can keep this vibrancy and desire to create in order to present us with more interesting stories. Her next work, a film about three women in politics who form a friendship, is expected to be in the works this 2014.