Running on Empty (1988) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • The Popes are a family who haven't been able to use their real identity for years. In the late sixties, the parents set a weapons lab afire in an effort to hinder the government's Vietnam war campaign. Ever since then, the Popes have been on the run with the authorities never far behind. Today, their eldest son wants a life of his own although he is aware that would mean that his parents would either get caught or he will never see them again.

    - Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>
  • Married couple Annie and Arthur Pope, former student radicals who remain committed to their peaceful causes, have been fugitives from the law since 1971, following their admission of the bombing of a napalm research facility that seriously injured a janitor, who was not supposed to be on duty at the time. They and their two sons, Danny and Harry, have learned to live under aliases and pick up and move at a moment's notice whenever it looks like the feds are getting close, which is on average twice a year. They are able to do so with the help of an underground network of friends, known as the Liberation. Through the network, the only extended family member they are able to keep in touch with periodically is Arthur's mother, Sophie Popov, those meetings always short and hidden away. They don't keep in touch with Annie's parents, wealthy Donald and Abigail Patterson, who they believe are part of the establishment problem of the world. Following Sophie's passing, Arthur believes their family unit of four becomes all the more important. Their constant moving means they have few material possessions, the only thing they need being a getaway vehicle. Their only indulgence is Annie's practice board which she's had since she was a child and which she used to teach Danny to play the piano. Their lives hit a crossroads when Danny reaches his senior year in school in Waterford, New Jersey, and transitions from being a fugitive Pope child into a man with his own dreams and aspirations. It includes falling in love for the first time, with classmate Lorna Phillips. It also includes thoughts of college, he applying to Julliard under the advice of Lorna's father, his music teacher, Mr. Edward Phillips. What Danny is to do in this phase of his life may end up being a joint family decision, Arthur and Annie who know they will never see him again if they let him go unless they give themselves up.

    - Written by Huggo
  • Parents who thought they could change the government by committing a terrorist act against the government, have to confront their misguided mistakes. Living under fake identities becomes a cumbersome cross to bear when their son wants to start his own life and attend college.

  • The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

    - Written by Kenneth Chisholm


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