Not every film needs to be brilliant.
Instead, what we all long for, what the little kid in all of us is really looking for, is an all too brief moment of fun, a few minutes of cinematic escapism, with no need for earth shaking themes or heavy drama. We just want to be thrilled, entertained, and get a little catharsis, if possible.
And that’s exactly what Portal Runner offers, a brisk 70 minute thrill ride, with characters we care about, big stakes, and a young hero who is willing to sacrifice an awful lot to protect those he loves.
You can’t find too many films like that anymore. After all, it is very hard to achieve.
Nolan bursts out of a mirror into a decrepit house, and immediately starts smashing mirrors. He builds a lethal boobytrap with most of the knives in the kitchen, and sets it in front of the last remaining mirror.
Moments later, something comes through that mirror, Nolan skewers it…
But that isn’t enough to kill the creature.
He ends up in a much nicer world next — even if it seems to be the same house — where he starts shoving food, weapons, tools and whatever else he can find into a knapsack while trying to avoid his family.
He hides in his closet when someone comes into his room, but is astonished that it is a girl he’s never met before.
And even more surprised that she is a sister he never had in any of the other worlds he visited…
I’ll admit that I was a little surprised to learn that Portal Runner was not the work of some eager young first-time Indie director, but the first science fiction film by Cornelia Duryée, an experienced writer, director, and producer who worked for years in the legitimate theater and has several highly respected drama movies to her credit, including two adaptations of stories by her Godmother and long time mentor, Madeleine L’Engle.
It’s sort of like a magic trick, however, once you realize that what seems a fun, light-hearted entertainment on the surface, relies on Cornelia’s excellent skills as a dramatist. The whole, entertaining story depends on its characters and the strong web of connections between them.
Just like one of Madeleine L’Engle’s novels.
It’s a lesson too many of our young Indie filmmakers desperately need to learn. It’s easy to turn a lot of weird quirks into a Frankenstein monster of a cast of oddballs, then have them work their way through the creaking dynamics of your plot, jumping through all the hoops you set for them, but much harder to create people who seem like real people, with all their difficulties, problems and surprising strengths, and let them write the story for you.
It’s an impressive effort, particularly for a first venture into genre territory.
And there is just one thing I find myself thinking over and over again as I write this:
Now if Disney had only had the sense to hire Cornelia Duryée to direct A Wrinkle in Time…