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Review: Green vs. green backs in ‘Runoff’

Joanne Kelly as Betty in the movie "Runoff."

Joanne Kelly as Betty in the movie “Runoff.”

(Monterey Media / Monterey Media)

Economic ruin meets ecological disaster in the environmental drama “Runoff,” from biochemist-turned-filmmaker Kimberly Levin.

Betty (Joanne Kelly) is the matriarch of a struggling rural family trying to stay afloat in the shadow of big agribusiness. Slowly and steadily, events pile up that send them further into desperation — her husband Frank’s (Neal Huff) illness, their farm being sold out from under them, her troubled teenage son Finley (Alex Shaffer) needing tuition for art school. An old friend offers Frank a shady gig to make some quick cash, which he turns down, but Betty, feeling the financial pressure, accepts it behind his back. It forces her to make the decision between compromising her morals and possibly the health of those around her, and keeping her family solvent.

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The film is beautifully shot, capturing the beauty of a country landscape, and Kelly is a lovely screen presence, holding the film together as Betty does her family. But there’s an affected folksiness to it, and the dramatic stakes feel deflated and unearned. The low energy pace and performances strive for naturalism but just don’t achieve compelling tension or suspense. It’s hard to feel sympathy or root for characters who make bad, confusing decisions, even if they’re in a tough spot. Ultimately, “Runoff” barely leaves a residue.

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“Runoff”

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes,

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Playing: Laemmle Claremont 5


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