Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Running On Empty


For me and Lee, this is one of the best films of all time. It’s not on my Top 25 list, but it easily could be. It tells of a family perpetually on the run from the FBI. Mom and Dad bombed a supposedly empty building during their crazy political days, and a man inside was blinded. Their youngest son was 2 at the time; they’ve since had another boy. They remain radical lefties, but all they really care about now is keeping the family together until the boys can make it on their own. They can’t contact their larger family, they have to be ready at all times to leave everything at a moment’s notice and start over again. They’re good at it, but it’s taking its toll, and they have not really thought it all through, in the sense that they have ignored the obvious fact that, when children grow up, they leave. But if the oldest boy (River Phoenix) leaves, he won’t be able to come back even to visit. The dramatic tensions are unbelievably high, the script is honed to perfection, and all parts are perfectly played. Maybe it means more to an ex-hippie baby-boomer like me, though I was never involved in political action—in fact loathed people like the Weathermen—but I think it will deeply affect anyone but the most right-wing fanatic.