“Benjamin Taylor is
leaving living today.”
Sometimes it takes the specter of death to bring light into life. Running Naked, from director Victor Buhler, is a feel-good dramedy that helps us see the beauty in life, even if we know that life is finite. Perhaps that finitude helps us see the meaning of it all.
As teenagers, Mark and Ben (Samuel Bottomley and James Senneck) were roommates in a cancer ward as they underwent treatment. The two would push against the confines of their situation. They plotted an escape from the hospital, only to discover there was nothing to do after they succeeded. Their highlight was a one lap race around the hospital floor au naturel.
Sixteen years later, Mark (Mathew McNulty) is an oncologist trying to bring hope and happiness to the teenage patients who are going through their own treatments. Ben (Andrew Gower) has become a reclusive, nervous nerd. Ben is plagued by OCD and a phobia of hospitals. He has a job in a basement that most people in the company don’t even know is there. Yet, through the years Ben and Mark have gotten together every Wednesday night.
When tests show a return of the cancer for one of them, Mark sets out to give Ben the life he has been missing all these years. With only a bit of time, the two reinvent their lives to discover the richness of life all around them, and finding joy and love that give meaning to days whether short or long. It also tests their friendship when they have to come to terms with changes in perspectives.
While not a outwardly religious story, there are places along the journey that allow us to reflect briefly on spiritual issues. For example, when the two men go to a dog track (where they won £50 as kids), Ben, at the last minute, chooses to put their money on a long shot, Hope Eternal. Later, we see the two, both as teens and as adults, sitting in the hospital chapel contemplating the words on the wall, “I will never forget you. I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)
Although the Book of Ecclesiastes is never mentioned or quoted, the film is firmly rooted in the wisdom found there. The book’s key theme, stated in Ecc. 1:2, is “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” It moves from a view of the world that is meaningless and repetitious (as Ben has been living) but through a search for wisdom, the writer discovered that the meaning of life is to “Enjoy life . . . all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, for that is your portion in life.” (9:9)
The film serves as a reminder that we too often get bogged down in the vanities of life when we are meant to be seeking the beauty and joy that surrounds us—even in seemingly dark times.
Running Naked is available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Trinity Creative Partnership.