Five Bruce Springsteen songs and how they influenced my drag-racing drama Run

Director Scott Graham tells us how the music of Bruce Springsteen played into Run, his new tale of joyriding and broken dreams in the Scottish fishing town of Fraserburgh.

Josh Slater-Williams
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Run (2019)

Run (2019)

Following Shell (2012) and Iona (2015), Run sees writer-director Scott Graham return to exploring characters in another relatively isolated Scottish community, this time his own hometown of Fraserburgh, a fishing town in the country’s far northeast. “I’m never sure how people from my home town are going to feel about it,” Graham says. “I think they would be the first to recognise it’s not an easy place to live.”

Speaking to us at the Glasgow Film Festival, where Run had a Scottish premiere a few weeks before its UK-wide release, Graham mentions a few audience members had travelled down from Fraserburgh to see the film early: “They seemed to really like it. They were very complimentary to the cast on the work they’d done on the local dialect.”

A feature-length expansion of one of Graham’s earlier shorts, Run is rooted in both the specificities of its Scottish setting and certain anxieties informed by American culture. It explores the malaise of thirtysomething Finnie (Mark Stanley), who has an increasingly fraught relationship with his two sons and wife Katie (Amy Manson), who was his teenage sweetheart – the pair have tattoos quoting Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’.

Finnie is stuck on memories of carefree nights drag-racing and dreaming of bigger things before family responsibilities much too young took over. Seeing a similar fate for his teenage eldest, Kid (Anders Hayward), who also races and whose girlfriend, Kelly (Marli Siu), is pregnant, Finnie takes a late night joyride in Kid’s car as a means of escape that might be a permanent abandonment of the life he knows.

“It wasn’t even going to be a drama to begin with,” says Graham of Run. “I was driving back home and I was interested in doing a documentary about the racing culture, mainly focusing on the teenagers. But the more you get into it, the more you realise this goes through every generation and their parents did it.

“Then I was interested in the music they were listening to. It’s useful for me when I’m writing to access a character through the music that they would like. This was over 10 years ago but the young people were listening to rap and hip-hop artists like Eminem. But their parents had been listening to Bruce Springsteen. So the idea was that they were still looking to America for a voice to express how they were feeling; their frustrations.

Run (2019)

Run (2019)

“What Eminem does in his songs is not dissimilar to what Springsteen was and is still doing. I never made a documentary in the end, but that was my first short film, which just focused on one family over one night. And then for various reasons, I made Shell as my first feature and ended up coming back to this for my third. So the script’s been around since the short.”

Five Springsteen tracks that influenced Run

‘Racing in the Street’ from Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)

“Lyrically, I suppose ‘Racing in the Street’ had the most influence over the film. This idea of some men giving up on life and others coming home after work, getting washed and going racing. For the first two or three verses, it’s very much about racing. He literally equates it to living: without it you’re not really living.

“But the song then moves into his partner’s point of view. Her perspective is as this young woman that he met on the racing circuit. ‘She was in a Camaro with this dude from LA’ is the line, and he blows that Camaro off his back and steals the girl away from him. But by the end of the song, I would say there’s a melancholia in her life. A kind of sadness where she feels like she’s lost as much as he has. That’s the direction my film goes in as well, where this guy is very focused on his own pain for most of it until he comes home and literally crashes into his wife in the garage.”

‘My Hometown’ from Born in the U.S.A. (1984)

“The next one would be ‘My Hometown’ because of that circle of life narrative; the father and son story. It’s about history repeating itself, which is a recurring theme in his songs and definitely a big part of the film too.”

‘Glory Days’ from Born in the U.S.A. (1984)

“I really like ‘Glory Days’. There’s a nice self-deprecating humour to the way this guy is looking back on his life and accepting that his best days are behind him, but it’s not terminal because he’s not the only one. He runs into people from his past and they all reminisce about it and even can almost laugh about the fact that he’s going to try not to sit around thinking about it, but he probably will. And he describes these boring stories about his glory days. He’s not taking it too seriously, which I like.”

‘The River’ from The River (1980)

“He’s got a lot of competition, but ‘The River’ is probably Springsteen’s finest hour in terms of his songwriting. When he talks about getting married to his pregnant girlfriend, I think she’s 17, and there being ‘no wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle, no flowers, no wedding dress’ – I can’t think of another song, any songwriting by anyone, that’s as good as that. There’s something really special about those lyrics. And so, that might have been there in the conception of Katie and Finnie’s relationship when they were young.”

‘Better Days’ from Lucky Town (1992)

“The last one would be more of a personal connection. There’s a line in ‘Better Days’ that talks about getting out of these ‘hard luck bones’, appreciating what you have. He talks about having clothes on his back and loving his life. And on a personal note, I felt like it might be time to do that with my own work. There are others that I love but specifically in how they’ve influenced me or this film, it would be those five.”

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