Saturday movie review: Runoff

What might a loving wife and mother do in hopes of pulling her family from the brink of financial disaster? It's that question that creates the intrigue and suspense in the beautifully filmed, understatedly acted RUNOFF, an independent film written and directed by Kimberly Levin in her narrative film directorial debut.

runoff movie 

Betty (Joanne Kelly) loves her husband, her two sons, and her farming community where the entire town gathers to celebrate holidays and it's easy to imagine characters played by Sissy Spacek, Sally Field, and Jessica Lange of long ago might be her neighbors and friends.

Betty and husband Frank (Neal Huff) live a lovely yet hardscrabble life. They run a farming supply company in the midst of dry times, thanks to a corporate competitor stealing their longtime customers, and Betty sells jars of honey from her bees at a roadside stand on the side for a little extra income.

As the corporation squeezes them tighter, Betty and Neal's financial woes mount. They're served with notice they have one week before eviction, and their son needs money for college. Then, Frank becomes seriously ill.

Always the rock of the family, Betty's determined to make things right. An old friend facing his own financial struggle makes Betty an offer that would pull her family out of the hole. The illegal and dangerous gig, though, carries tragic consequences for her community, the environment—and possibly her family, far beyond what she may have considered.

As my husband and I watched RUNOFF, I told him there's no way we could be farmers. Though the land is breathtaking and the lifestyle ideal for children, it's too darn much work for us city folk. One need not be a farmer to relate to Betty's challenges and dilemma, though. Joanne Kelly is riveting as she perfectly and quietly portrays a strong woman struggling to save her family. Her pain, desperation, and determination plays out across her face and resonates with anyone who has faced desperately wanting the best for her loved ones despite looming and overwhelming financial crisis.

In RUNOFF, writer/director Kimberly Levin—who originally trained as a biochemist—subtly drives home concerns over environmental consequences of some farming practices deftly woven through the story of a strong woman in distress. The striking cinematography provided tranquil counterbalance to Betty's inner turmoil.

Here, Levin passionately and eloquently provides insight into her work:


RUNOFF (rated R "for some drug use") opened yesterday, June 26, 2015, in limited theaters. For more information, visit the official RUNOFF website.

Disclosure: I had the opportunity to screen this film for free; opinions are my own.