Warning: a few minor plot spoilers ahead.
Running on Empty Dreams (2007) may be one of the most emotionally exhausting lesbian films to come
along since Boys on the Side, though
it lacks the permanence and star power of the 1995 classic.
Instead, Running — recently released on DVD — offers a distinct indie charm, a
wonderful, fulfilling lesbian romance (which is based on true events) and about
12 minutes of superfluous running time.
Written and directed by Nitara
Lee Osbourne, the film is clearly a labor of love, though the end product
is undeniably uneven.
The movie begins with the beautiful, brooding Sydney (Kathleen Benner) traveling to Arizona with her
ex-marine husband (Corey, played by Jose
Rosete) and their adorable son, Matt.
Kathleen Benner and Jose Rosete
Sydney is ill with thyroid cancer and the
family has very little money, so she daydreams her life away. She’s also an aspiring screenwriter — penning
lesbian-oriented films while sighing at her computer screen — and an avid
fitness freak, an aspect that doesn’t jive well with her cancer treatments.
They soon settle into a house in a modest little Phoenix suburb, right
across the street from Jane (Rachel
Owens), a free-spirited single mom who closely resembles Amy Poehler. Corey
spends long stretches of time on the road, so Jane and Sydney spend plenty of
time together; doing play dates with the kids and swapping life stories while
watching old flicks.
Benner and Rachel Owens
Their friendship grows increasingly intense until it becomes
obvious that something a bit more amorous is working beneath the surface. Sydney is then faced with
staying true to her hard-working (and very earnest) husband, or running off
Complicating everything is Sydney’s cancer, her dedication to her
existing family, and a very strange ex-lesbian neighbor who keeps popping up to
torment our heroines into following “the right path” — that is, to live a life
The characters are all quite well drawn and the acting is
top-notch across the board (save for a couple of folks who appear to be
straight out of the twilight zone). Sydney’s
journey makes for good drama — and her character is interesting, conflicted and
complicated. Owens does a great job with Jane, avoiding any obvious “she’s the
free-spirited lesbian!” clichés.