REVIEW: The Runaways is dark and haunting but uplifting - another made in Yorkshire runaway hit

THEY say never work with children or animals.

The Runaways. Dark, Haunting. Atmospheric, Uplifting. Don't missit.
The Runaways. Dark, Haunting. Atmospheric, Uplifting. Don't missit.

But film-maker Richard Heap has ignored the advice for his directorial debut The Runaways about three kids, two seaside donkeys and one big adventure

And, pardon the pun, its a smart ass move.

Dark, Haunting. Atmospheric, Uplifting. Don't miss it.

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VIDEO PREVIEW: The Runaways filmed in Yorkshire hits the big screen

This is an endearing story, comic at times, though as dark as a grim day on the east coast in winter. It has all the makings of becoming a runaway hit - especially with movie fans who love their films made in Yorkshire.

It helps when the cast includes big name stars from two of the greatest films to ever come out of God's own county.

Mark Addy and Steve Huison, who played Sheffield ex-steelworker strippers in The Full Monty, have this time been teamed with Tara Fitzgerald, Ewan McGregor's flugelhorn squeeze in Grimethorpe made Brassed Off.

The film's crowning glory, BAFTA Best Actress winner Molly Windsor

Ex-Coronation Street bad boy Lee Boardman is also superbly cast as the villain of the piece - a cross between Bill Sykes and Jack Nicholson in The Shining, complete with a scene which sees him smash down a door and stick his head through it.

Then there's the cute donkeys Monty and Domino, plus of course the epic Yorkshire landscape itself.

But the biggest stars here are the three incredibly convincing young actors.

They give the film its emotional heartbeat, Rhys Connah, Macy Shackelton and the film's crowning glory, BAFTA Best Actress winner Molly Windsor. What a coup to cast her.

The epic Yorkshire landscape is a star of the show

Molly, while working on the film, picked up the BAFTA for her role on BBC mini series Three Girls and was named as a 2018 BAFTA Breakthrough Brit. More recently she starred opposite Barnsley's Katherine Kelly in highly acclaimed ITV psychological drama Cheat. She's from Nottingham and lives in Breaston, Derbyshire. But on current trend I'm guessing her bags are packed. Next stop Hollywood.

She delivers such a believable maturity in her performances, way beyond her years and still just 22 she is more than convincing here as the 16-year-old big sister Angie, surrogate mum to brother Ben and Polly.

Addy, who like Fitzgerald also recently appeared in Game of Thrones, is equally superb as the kids' loveable but tragic dad Reith. He is dead and being fished out of the sea as the film gets started, though we see him in flash back and then as a ghost to lift the spirits of his youngest girl.

One of the film's most heartbreaking scenes is when the children find him dead in bed and don't know what to do, so prop him up to watch TV with them while they discuss what to have for tea.

Ex-Coronation Street star Lee Boardman and The Full Monty's Steve Huison are the bad guys - more like the hapless villains from Home Alone

In the end they decide to bury him at sea and as Angie and Ben heave his body over the side Ben gets caught and is almost dragged down with him.

Fitzgerald, as Maggie, is a manic delight to watch as the deranged and drunken pub singing mum who has abandoned the kids and husband Reith years ago.

Yet she is their only hope when bad guy Boardman, who plays nasty ex-con uncle Blythe, comes after them for the necklace heirloom that his brother gave to Angie on her birthday the night he died.

Flip-flop wearing Blythe and his equally inept accomplice Tuff, played effortlessly by Huison, turn out though to be more like hapless villains from Home Alone. Angie raids a joke shop for tricks and toys to distract and send them the wrong way as they make their escape through the night time streets of Whitby.

A hazardous journey follows as the kids set off in eternal hope to find their mum is a changed woman; a loving mum. How naive children can be. They cross the beautiful Yorkshire moors with their donkeys, including a hilarious scene where they hide them in the toilets on the famous steam train from Grosmont.

"What are you doing in there," asks the frustrated conductor, hoping to catch a fare dodger.

Tara Fitzgerald, as Maggie, a manic delight to watch as the deranged and drunken pub singing mum

Little Polly quips back: "Sitting on my ass!"

It had to be said.

The film does have comic value, mainly on the dark side, but with a few other laugh-out-loud moments - though this isn't the same feel-good factor film as say The Full Monty or Brassed Off.

This is more in keeping with the grim up north social-realist tragedy of that other great Yorkshire classic, 1969's Kes.

The Runaways has a number of themes. Not least of all this is a story full of opposites, the yin and yang of life and death, its highs and lows, dysfunctional families and unconditional love, of sibling bonding and rivalry, but ultimately triumph over adversity. Good over evil.

When Angie is robbed of their life savings your heart sinks. Then a stranger on a horse, like a knight in shining armour, turns up out of nowhere, befriends and feeds them. The glass is always half full.

The Runaways is ultimately a celebration of childhood and the importance of home and family ties.

The many outstanding performances draw you in. You want to invest time in these characters, particularly the children.

I wanted to put my arms around them, give them a great big hug, feed them, wrap them up and show them that love does exist.

Just when life lets them down again and you worry that nobody in the end is coming to save these souls the penny final drops. The twist in the tale. They don't need anyone else. They have one another.

A fantastic new orchestral score, by Andrew Swarbrick, helps the flow of light and dark with sweeping strings and stirring cello. And it's complimented with some great tunes by the likes of Jake Bug, Sheffield's own Richard Hawley and, playing over the opening credits, Reverend And The Makers apt song Auld Reekie Blues, from their recent album The Death Of A King. It fits the mood perfectly.

The Runaways, which comes from from Slackjaw Films and Westcliff Productions, is produced by director Heap, along with Mark Thomas and Mario Roberto.

The cinematic views of Whitby harbour, Abbey and surrounding moors are worth the cinema ticket alone.


Web: therunaways.filmTwitter: @RunawaysMovieFacebook: The Internet Movie Database updates of the film The Runaways (2017) -

Mark Addy superb as the kids' loveable but tragic dad Reith
Three children. Two donkeys. One big adventure.