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RUN WOMAN RUN: 3 ½ STARS. “lighthearted film with serious messages.”

On the surface “Run Woman Run,” a new dramedy starring Dakota Ray Hebert and now playing in theatres, is about running but it succeeds because of larger themes examining dissatisfaction, respect, ambition and family.

Hebert stars as Beck, an Indigenous single mom at a crossroad. Ambitionless, when she isn’t binge eating, she’s hopping in the car to check the mail… from the mailbox at the end of her driveway.

She is at odds with her sister and son, but when she falls into a diabetic coma her life comes into focus. She finds motivation in conversations with Tom Longboat (Asivak Koostachin), an Iroquois icon and long-distance runner who won the Boston marathon in 1907, and died fifty years before Beck was born.

Whether Longboat is a spirit or a hallucination, he provides her with the inspiration she needs to change her life and try something new, like marathon running.

“Run Woman Run” does a great job of blending the comedy and drama, the spiritual and the physical, in a story that is specific in its setting but universal in its themes of embracing change, and making better life choices.

Director Zoe Leigh Hopkins creates a vivid small-town world for her characters. It’s a place where Beck’s dreams have gone to die, but it’s also a community that will ultimately support her when she begins a new chapter in life.

Filled with heart and hope, “Run Woman Run” may not have worked so well if the actors weren’t so strong. Hebert is relatable and wonderful and brings Beck’s arc to life. I don’t know anyone who would drive to the end of the driveway to get the mail, but she made me believe people like that are out there.

“Run Woman Run” is a lighthearted film with serious messages of recovery from residential school trauma, self-discovery and the erasure of Indigenous languages. It doesn’t shy away from the big topics, but at its heart it is an underdog story about overcoming obstacles and belief in one’s self.

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