Brittany Runs A Marathon review: a comedy to cheer for

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Jillian Bell headlines a film whose title gives a bit of the game away.

It may not surprise you to learn that this is a film about a woman called Brittany (Jillian Bell) who runs a marathon. It also probably won’t surprise you that the marathon is a metaphor, for Brittany and the way her life is currently going. Or not going, as the case might be. For Brittany feels lost and adrift, in the way many in their late 20s do.

Whilst social media is great for bringing people together, it can be an onslaught on mental health – especially if you find yourself comparing your journey to those of others. Which is what Brittany does. A lot. She tortures herself with what she’s not doing, berating herself for not doing or being enough. A doctor’s appointment where she’s kindly but clearly told she needs to lose weight pushes her to do something. Which is get running, slowly but surely. Signing up to a marathon occurs when she has established, semi-reluctantly, a support network of Seth (Micah Stock), a father who wants to get fitter for his son, and Catherine (Michaela Watkins), Brittany’s neighbour with a family and career.

There’s nothing new or particularly inventive about what occurs. Yet whilst the road the film travels by and the landmarks it passes could easily be described as well travelled, it does have some unexpected diversions. Sure, it may be a by-the-numbers inspirational, underdog narrative, but it has enough to make it different, and what it does is done really well. Crucially, the script, by the film’s writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo, is very, very funny. It’s both laugh-out-loud funny and bittersweetly, cringey, oh-that’s-way-too-familiar funny. For any young women who have experienced the ‘joys’ of 21st century dating, there’s a lot of recognisable goings-on; the inducing muscle memory levels of torture kind of level.

What the film does well is its portrayal of Brittany. She feels familiar from the outset. Many of us know a Brittany or are a Brittany. She’s the kind of person who hides away from the big stuff with humour, who conceals seriousness with a funny accent and deflects everything that could be considered personal. The doctor’s concern is not just because she’s big, but that she’s unhealthy and at risk as a result; we quickly see how hard this hits her. We can see how her neuroses have formed, how they are holding her back – often to the extent of being weaponised – and how things could be for her.

It’s down to Bell’s performance that even when Brittany is at her most unlikeable, we’re still cheering her towards that finish line.

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