'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Director on Inner Journey at Center of Film

Paul Downs Colaizzo breaks down key moments in the movie as Jillian Bell's main character nears her finish line.

[The following story contains spoilers from Brittany Runs a Marathon.]

When Brittany Runs a Marathon writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo first started working on his debut movie about a woman trying to turn her life around as she starts running, he didn't know if Brittany (Jillian Bell) would actually make it to the New York City Marathon.

He made this revelation to the film's real-life subject, his friend Brittany O'Neill, telling her, "I know at this point that she gets injured and can't finish the race as planned. The movie's really about distance traveled as opposed to finishing a marathon. The marathon's metaphorical, it's figurative."

Shortly thereafter, O'Neill herself got injured and couldn't run in the New York City Marathon, just one of a few instances in which O'Neill's life "started to mimic the outline" of Colaizzo's film, he says.

But beyond predicting his friend's misfortune, the stress fracture Bell's Brittany suffers in Colaizzo's story initially sends her into a downward spiral. She feels as though all of her training has been for nothing, and that all of the weight she's lost, which has prompted a number of compliments, will come back.

"In order to tell the story as wholly as possible, I needed to explore what can happen and what happens when anyone subjects themselves to the male gaze," Colaizzo tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I think anybody who purposefully and necessarily experiences being objectified by men, there's trauma that comes with that. For Brittany, the character, I think it's easy for people when they start transforming and they start getting positive feedback or things that feel positive -- they'll lose track of the real ultimate goal, which often or many times isn't about the positive feedback, it's about their own values, their own ideals and what they're chasing for themselves. It's very easy, I think, for people to get confused by other people's values when other people start complimenting them and treating them in a way that's positive. It's easy for people to start looking for that validation rather than to follow through on the pure task that they've given themselves, and that feels very relatable, and that feels like it hasn't really been explored before in these kinds of films. The harsh reality of the world we live in is that people do treat you differently because of how you look and how you present yourself, and I wanted to find that good and insightful character journey within those given circumstances."

After a heart-to-heart with her brother-in-law, Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), Brittany is able to refocus on her goal. And she ultimately does make it to the real New York City Marathon, in more ways than one, with the film shooting during parts of the actual 2017 race

But in order to fully complete her journey to let other people in, Brittany has to suffer another setback.

"What the movie is really ultimately about is about daring to let people support you," Colaizzo says. "Letting her love from her friends and her new support system carry her the final leg of the race was the whole movie for me."

Brittany Runs a Marathon, which Amazon picked up for $14 million at Sundance, is now in theaters across the country.