Brittany (Jillian Bell) is funny, overweight and sad when no one’s looking. She lives in New York City with an influencer roommate who doesn’t realise how insensitive she is. After a health scare Brittany decides to take her first tentative steps to improving her health and her chaotic life.
Running starts as a way to get fitter without spending any money but turns into a personal challenge to run a full marathon. Her running friends support each other as best they can but sometimes it’s harder to accept help than to give it.
Brittany encounters temptation, setbacks and personal growth in her quest to complete the marathon. But the thing that’s holding her back isn’t what she initially thought it was.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon”, directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, is foremost a comedy. Bell has a natural deadpan delivery which comes across as ad lib (and may well be in a lot of cases). Brittany’s humour is a defence mechanism though and pushes people away while at the same time providing some form of self validation. If you can make people laugh you have positively affected them. But it’s not intimate.
The difficulties Brittany faces in finding a job, a home, and supporting herself financially will be the lived experience of a lot of people watching the film even if they don’t live in New York City.
It’s also a lonely life and sometimes achievements go uncelebrated. This is particularly poignant for anyone whose family lives a long way away or whose friends have their own spouses, children and busy lives to attend to. Sometimes there’s just nobody there.
As she works harder towards her goal it becomes less about just getting fitter and more of a symbol of Brittany turning her life around, shedding not only weight but baggage and immaturity.
In doing so she must learn how to ask for help. For someone so independent this is the biggest challenge. If you’re used to making it through life alone it’s an incredibly difficult thing to open up to someone else and admit you need them.
I felt like these moments were given the seriousness they needed to get across just how difficult they were to Brittany. The comedy and seriousness were very well balanced throughout the film. And in the final marathon scenes you can feel the magnitude of the event to her and to anyone who has tried to take control of their lives to steer them in a different direction.
The theme that underpins a lot of the action is body positivity. By which we mean not just celebrating being fat but living your best life no matter your body shape.
Some people want to change their bodies and hate what’s in the mirror. But others are comfortable in themselves. Either way we’re all still humans worthy of being seen. We’re all worthy of being treated nicely and having the door held for us on the subway.
For Brittany it wasn’t that she necessarily needed to lose weight to feel better about herself but the two did go hand in hand. She learned to take responsibility for her actions, to introduce discipline into her life an most importantly how to admit she needed help.
None of the supporting characters were stereotypes and that approach made the film a lot more grounded. The snooty woman downstairs was struggling with a huge life change herself. The influencer roommate wasn’t ever trying to be mean. And the hapless man-child cohabiter was actually warm, encouraging and perceptive underneath his ineptitude.
Brittany Runs A Marathon is miles removed from just being about an overweight girl training for a marathon. It’s uplifting, emotional and very funny. It’s a mirror to our own lives and an encouragement to take those first steps to change what we can for the better, no matter how hard it might be.
Hi, I'm Caz. I live in Edinburgh and I watch a lot of films. My reviews focus mainly on women in film - female directors or how women are represented on screen.